Saving lives one drop at a time
From Wider Horizons magazine - WInter 2009
Clay Boyes recalls the incident like it was yesterday: just a typical day on the farm stacking hay bales with a friend and his eight-year-old son, Nathan.
Suddenly, the steady pace is broken by Nathan’s blood-curdling screams; his leg is stuck in the rotary chain of the bale machine, and he’s slowly being pulled in.
Instincts prevail, and Boyes shuts off the power take-off, unsure of where his son is. Once found, they immediately begin working to free his leg, which was later found to be mangled, with a damaged femoral artery.
Today, Boyes, facilities manager for Lethbridge College’s Aquaculture Centre of Excellence, says Nathan is lucky to be alive with only a minor limp, thanks to a much-needed blood transfusion.
“We should all remember that we have life to share with others and your donation could save a child’s life,” says Boyes.
The need for blood is greater than ever, says the Canadian Blood Services.
Lethbridge College understands that need. Last fall, staff and students rolled up their sleeves to help people like Nathan receive the greatest gift of all: life.
The blood drive was run by Totally Lethbridge College (TLC), the on-campus volunteer program that began last year to recruit volunteers for the 50th Anniversary celebration. The program was so successful, the college decided to continue it, recruiting volunteers for college and community functions. Last year, more than 2,500 volunteer hours were recorded by more than 200 college and community volunteers.
TLC was a vital part of the blood drive, raising awareness about the importance of donating.
“President Tracy Edwards approached me about having TLC host a blood drive challenge,” says Kelly Burke, alumni relations specialist. “We wanted to encourage people to go out and donate blood because it’s the right thing to do.”
Edwards, a team captain, says she felt compelled to be part of the project because many college staff have benefited from blood donations.
“This drive is a way for us to give back and also show how Lethbridge College supports our local community,” says Edwards, once a regular donor.
“I was a regular blood donor in my 20s and 30s, but a busy lifestyle got me out of my routine. This donation is hopefully the first of many to come.”
An impressive 191 staff, faculty and students participated in the drive, including 81 first-time donors.
Burke notes many people are misinformed about blood donation, and tend not to give.
“People can give every 56 days,” she says. “A lot of people are deferred, not because they can’t give blood, they just may not be able to give blood that day, if they have a cold, for example. But, we still counted that as participating because they found out about going, they were interested in going, and they took the time to go.”
Dorinda Emery, community development coordinator for Canadian Blood Services, says she’s pleased with the college’s efforts.
“I am very passionate about the cause and enjoy my job because I am not asking people to give money, but rather to give something more precious: the gift of life,” she says.
However, it’s a tough sell: although one in two Canadians between 17 and 61 can donate, only one in 60 do.
“When the college decides to contribute to the well-being of the community by actively recruiting blood donors from its staff and students, they also provide an opportunity to bring some awareness to our need to recruit 95,000 new donors over the coming year.”
The need for blood is constant. Medical procedures such as liver transplants use up to 100 units, while the average leukemia patient uses about 72.
Burke explains holding the blood drive at the college makes sense because it targets a large population in one area.
“With the college, between students and staff, we have probably 5,000 people that are being encouraged,” she says. “It’s just a great group of people to access.”
The college is also a prime location for such an event because community spirit really pulls people together. Both staff and students aided in various promotions to bring awareness and interest to the blood drive.
Charles Parker, head of Culinary Careers and Food Services, offered iron-rich lunches for $5 during the campaign because iron is a vital part of blood donation as it helps rebuild blood cells.
“I give blood on a regular basis as I believe I can make a difference in saving someone’s life,” says Parker. “I know full well how important it is for Canada to have enough blood supply to help people who need blood for operations or ongoing treatment.”
This is true for Roxanne Dautremont, a Lethbridge College administrative assistant in the College and University Prep program, whose son benefited from blood donation after he was scheduled to have heart surgery.
“Our son recovered with flying colours, and now at age 19 will be donating blood at a local event this year,” says Dautremont. “The lives of someone’s children are behind a lot of these blood donations, and as a parent I can’t tell you how important it is to feel secure in the knowledge that the supply will be there when needed.”
Burke says TLC was glad to play such a large part in the event, and it has opened her eyes to the importance of blood donation.
“The more research I did, the more I realized I really can give, and I’d been making excuses to avoid it,” she says.
“So, I can honestly say, people need to call and find out how to give.”
TLC will be continuing its efforts throughout the year with various volunteer opportunities, offering prizes to those who report the most hours.
Burke says volunteers make events such as the blood drive possible.
“Because we’re encouraging volunteerism within our staff and student population, it’s really building on that culture of giving back, and it’s also encouraging staff and students to be more engaged in our campus.”