Nurse Ali Skaley readies a smiling Janet Hurlburt as she gives blood for the first time in the name of her son Joshua.

Nurse Ali Skaley readies a smiling Janet Hurlburt as she gives blood for the first time in the name of her son Joshua.

The best gift one can give: blood

A Red Deer mother is encouraging people to donate blood during this season of giving.

A Red Deer mother is encouraging people to donate blood during this season of giving.

“We’re all so wound up at Christmas time and we’re not even thinking this is the best gift a person can give,” Jan Hurlburt said Monday at a blood drive held in honour of her son, Joshua Hurlburt, at the Red Deer Blood Clinic.

The drive was held 20 months after her son died from stem cell transplant complications and four days after what would have been his 29th birthday.

Joshua was born with chronic granulomatous disease, a disorder that leads to ongoing infection because immune system cells do not function properly.

Jan said her son “had a zest for life.” He went to school in Hawaii and worked as the assistant editor on the documentary Wolves Unleashed, which was screened at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival as well as the Calgary International Film Festival.

He saw all the opportunities life presented and decided to undergo two stem cell transplants to try and eliminate the disease, Jan said.

The Hurlburt family held a stem cell clinic in honour of Joshua in 2010 to help find a match for Noel Young, an Alberta boy battling the same rare blood disease.

Jan was pleased to report that a match was found for Noel through the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network clinic held in Red Deer in November 2010.

The Hurlburts decided to encourage people to donate blood this year as Joshua required blood transfusions — more than 80 units — throughout his 10-month treatment in Calgary, Jan said.

The clinic was hoping to see at least 50 people donate Monday, and about 40 appointments were confirmed, said Kaelyn Smith, community development co-ordinator with Canadian Blood Services.

It was a much needed drive as donations typically drop this time of year when people are preoccupied with gearing up for the hectic holiday season, she added.

“This is the season to give,” Smith said. “We can be bombarded with the messages to give, to donate to many different organizations. Donating blood is one of the easiest ways to give. It doesn’t cost any money. It takes one hour of your time. And you can save three lives with your donation.”

She also urged people to consider donating blood before they go on holidays as visiting some destinations will make you temporarily ineligible to give.

The Red Deer Blood Donor Clinic will be open Dec. 24 and Dec. 31 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in addition to its usual hours of operation: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 2 to 7 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The clinic, located at #5 5020 68 St., will be closed on Boxing Day.

Anyone interested in donating blood can call 1-888-2-DONATE (1-888-236-6283) or visit www.blood.ca to book an appointment.

ptrotter@bprda.wpengine.com

— copyright Red Deer Advocate