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Giving what costs us nothing

This just might be the most important column I have ever written
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Giving what matters most

It’s something I haven’t done in a long time. Not because I didn’t think it important, but because I just never made the time to do so, even knowing fully how much it matters.

I don’t recall the last time I donated blood. A mobile clinic was here in Outlook quite some time ago but I don’t remember exactly when. Prior to that I gave when I was a university student at a clinic set up on campus.

In the years since those visits I didn’t make the effort to go and give. But that changed last weekend when my family was in need and I faced the reality that while I hadn’t been giving, others had. Because of them we are celebrating life.

Our readers are aware of the fact that earlier this summer my husband required unexpected major surgery. He is recovering well and getting stronger every day. But as he was getting back on his feet we faced another health challenge—this time my mom. Back to the same hospital, the same ER, the same surgical floor and many of the same nurses. But before she could get the surgery she required, my mom was in need of blood transfusions.

Watching a bag of blood get hung and start running through an IV line is a sobering image. It’s one many of you might be familiar with but it was new for me. As I watched the blood begin flowing I had trouble swallowing past the lump in my throat. Someone…someone we don’t know…took the time…somewhere…and provided this very blood that was now making the difference for my mom.

How can you properly say thank you? How can you possibly express your gratitude when there isn’t someone available to hear the words? To see the tears threaten to spill down your cheeks? To share in the moment that you as a family are experiencing?

The answer came quickly. I resolved to become a blood donor as soon as possible.

I am not someone who deals well with medical procedures. I have to leave the room or turn away when new IVs are started, incisions inspected, or tubes removed. There’s a reason I could never enter any career related to health care.

So it was with a bit of nerves that I entered the premises of Canadian Blood Services in Saskatoon, but my worries were for naught. Each step of the process went smoothly and I was taken care of so well by the kind and professional staff.

Since it had been so long since I last donated there were no records to draw on, so I was treated as a first time donor. A little sticker on my shirt let everyone know. At a couple of different points I was asked what brought me in that day to donate. I told them about my mom, and then silently reprimanded myself for waiting until my family was in need to bring me in. Why did it take this medical emergency to get me in the doors and roll up my sleeve?

But the only guilt-trip being laid was my own. The people I told my story to thanked me for sharing. They need to hear those stories, they said. And they sent their best wishes to my mom.

Less than an hour later I was on my way. I’d given, literally, the gift of life. It is not an exaggeration. Every few seconds someone somewhere needs blood and unless we have people willing to donate, the needs will outpace the supply. Consider this: eight donors every week are needed to help one person with leukaemia. Then think about serious injuries from car accidents and natural disasters, those requiring blood during surgery, and the need that comes with any number of diseases and disorders.

According to Canadian Blood Services a small group of regular donors currently meets the needs of the entire country, but this is unsustainable. One in two Canadians are eligible to donate but only one in 81 does. Less than 2% of our neighbours are giving what we hope we will never require, but are incredibly grateful it is there when the need hits close to home.

Currently thousands of open appointments need to be filled so that the supply in Canada will be there when called upon. Not everyone can donate, but if you can please consider it. I never could have imagined a scenario in which my family would be anxiously awaiting a bag of blood to begin doing its lifesaving work. But we did. I am sure many of you have, too. It’s hard to put into words how meaningful it truly is. Watching pure gold drip through diamond encrusted tubes could never be as precious.

Many times this summer I have had people ask what they can do for us. I know they want to help. To do something tangible to demonstrate their care and concern. I haven’t known quite how to respond to these offers, but I do now.

If you are eligible, consider donating blood. It costs you nothing but your time. You even get to put your feet up when you go in and give! Now that’s truly a win-win. To everyone who has ever donated…thank you. We are a family that is most grateful. That’s my outlook.