A simple, remarkable gift

The simple act is often the most dramatic. Simple, like giving a blood donation. Yet often, we either neglect to do our part or feel unreasonably squeamish about making the small sacrifice necessary.

The simple act is often the most dramatic. Simple, like giving a blood donation.

Yet often, we either neglect to do our part or feel unreasonably squeamish about making the small sacrifice necessary.

Accidents, calamity and misfortune are part of our lives. We are a mobile, active and mistake-prone society.

We run risks, some built into our DNA, some built into our social structure. We need new hips and knees, and modern medicine can supply them. We need heart surgery, or any number of other procedures that keep us alive and active.

And anyone can fall from well-being to serious injury in a heartbeat.

When the risks don’t fall in our favour, we may need a blood transfusion.

According to an Ipsos-Reid poll, 52 per cent of Canadians say that they or a family member have needed blood products.

Yet Canadian Blood Services says only 425,000 Canadians are active blood donors (giving at least once in a year), and an estimated 90,000 new donors are needed each year to sustain the system.

Why are the rest of us not doing our part?

For some it’s a matter of faith (some religions prohibit blood donations); for others its a dislike of needles; others have health conditions that they believe, rightly or wrongly, prevent them from donating (those with AIDS, cancer and several other illnesses can’t donate). Lifestyles, some tattoos and even some travel might cause ineligibility.

But for the vast majority of Canadians, the only real reason people don’t step forward to donate blood is that they just can’t be bothered.

Canadian Blood Services says that, on average, someone needs blood products every minute in Canada.

The Canada Transportation Safety Board says that 160,000 Canadians are injured in vehicle accidents every year. The most recent figures in Alberta show 27,000 people injured in car crashes.

Farm injuries in Alberta resulted in 532 people seeking treatment in 2009 alone.

In general, Alberta’s 2010 lost-time claim rate for workplace accidents is 1.41 injuries for every 100 full-time jobs.

The picture is clear: the potential uses for blood products surround us.

The need for commitment from donors is accentuated by the fact that blood products don’t have an indefinite shelf life. Red blood cells are useless after 42 days and platelets survive just five days.

The average person can donate blood six times a year, and it will take you about an hour on each occasion.

Six hours of your life a year is surely a minor sacrifice when the result could be lives saved.

This month, members of the local RCMP and Red Deer Emergency Services are giving blood as part of their annual Sirens for Life donor challenge. And they are asking the community to join them.

On Central Alberta’s busy roads, in our homes and at our workplaces, the community’s fire-medics and police see the need for blood products every day.

And these emergency workers understand the value of the simple, dramatic gift of blood.

So should you. To do you part, call 1 888-2-DONATE (1-888-236-6283) or go online at www.blood.ca.

John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.

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