For someone who’s donated blood a total of 173 times over four decades, one would think the sight of blood wouldn’t put off Kevin Young.
"I just close my eyes," laughs the 65 year-old retired trained architect and former salesman. But while they’re shut, he continues, he thinks about all the people he’s helping.
"I may be able to save an average of three lives every time I donate," says the Waverley Heights resident. As the website for Canadian Blood Services explains, whole blood donations are separated into three components – red cells, plasma and platelets – which may each be given to a different patient.
It’s motivation enough for Young to go under the needle regularly – approximately every 56 days, that is, which is the minimum allowable period between donations. Every time he goes in, he says, he makes sure to book his next appointment. When we speak over the phone, he cheerfully mentions he’s due again the following week.
And because he can give, he does. "My blood is pretty popular," he quips, by which he means his blood type of B+ is in high demand, it being shared by 7.6% of Canadians. (The most common blood type is O+ at 39%, the rarest being AB- at 0.5%.)
Apart from a period of several years in which he couldn’t give because of high blood pressure, Young’s generosity has been nearly as constant as the northern star.
"I just want to help out," he says. Even at the other end of a telephone line, one can feel his sense of conscience: there’s a need to help people in (more dire) need.
"He’s definitely one of our great volunteers," says Eltie Pearce, co-ordinator of volunteer services at CBS, a not-for-profit charity that collects close to a billion blood units annually to serve thousands of Canadian patients.
Young also serves as a donor ambassador with mobile blood donor clinics and at post-secondary institutions – which is to say, when he’s not rolling up his own sleeve, he’s helping allay the fears of others who might consider doing the same.
That he has such a warmth of personality certainly helps.
"Kevin is very outgoing," Pearce says with a note of affection. "He’ll talk your ear off.
"And he’s found something he can do to contribute and is very dedicated to it."
Originally from Hong Kong, Young came to Canada while still in his late teens in the late ‘60s. He first resided in Toronto before moving to Winnipeg, where he has lived for the last 43 years.
It was in 1971 that Young first gave blood, and he’s been closing his eyes ever since ("After the needle’s in, you don’t feel a thing anyway," he laughs). Since last year, he’s been donating only platelets, but on the positive side that allows him to give every 14 days.
"I’ve been called a ‘lifer by people at CBS," Young says. "I’ll donate until I die, perhaps."