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Rural blood donors make a difference

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Lorraine Futros drove from St. Francois Xavier to St. Eustache on Oct. 15 so she could honour her brother’s memory by donating blood.


Futros was one of more than 100 people who rolled up their sleeves at a Canadian Blood Services mobile donor clinic at Cartier Hall in St. Eustache.


She’s been a regular blood donor for the past five years, after her brother died from a nerve disorder. He received several transfusions during his lifetime.


"One of my brother’s requests when he was dying was that everyone in our family give the gift of blood," she said.


Futros is managing to turn her sadness over her brother’s death into something positive. She does her best to donate blood as often as three times a year so she can help others facing health challenges similar to her brother’s.


Donations made at rural blood donor clinics in Manitoba and northwest Ontario make up more than a third of total donations in the region. Even clinics in small communities such as St. Eustache play an important role in meeting the demand for blood, according to clinic supervisor Ruth Driedger.


St. Eustache’s "small town" hospitality also appealed to Driedger. Volunteers from around the area distributed refreshments to donors, along with token zipper pullers for people making their third donation.


Not only do rural blood donor clinics help increase blood bank volume, they also encourage community spirit, Driedger said. For an hour one evening, people can spend time with old friends, meet new ones and come together for a common purpose, she said.


The mobile clinic’s accessibility was a bonus for many donors like Marie Ann Fitzgerald. She’s donated at blood clinics in St. Eustache and Elie for about three years, but doesn’t want to travel to a clinic in Winnipeg.


"Donating doesn’t hurt — and you get cookies after," Fitzgerald said. "But if you’re a healthy person and if you’re able to do it, it’s kind of a responsibility to donate."


The St. Eustache clinic was one of several that were held that week, with Oakbank, Morris, Steinbach, Portage La Prairie and St. Pierre-Jolys all hosting clinics. The goal was to replenish blood used during the Thanksgiving long weekend.


"I don’t think blood shortages know seasons. Blood shortages know events," Driedger said. "We hear on the news every day about stabbings in Winnipeg or accidents on the highway."


The blood collected in St. Eustache will be used in 90 hospitals across Manitoba and northwest Ontario.

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