Blood donors needed as donor base drops 31,000

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Derek Hay is about to achieve a lofty goal.

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Derek Hay is about to achieve a lofty goal.

The 63-year-old will donate blood for the 200th time on July 1.

“I was either going to do my 200th on Canada Day or on my birthday. Since I hit 100, I’ve been trying to motivate others to go. I’ll celebrate by posting it on Facebook to try and convince other people to give blood once in a while.”

Derek Hay will donate blood for the 200th time on July 1. (Ethan Cairns / Winnipeg Free Press)

Hay has been donating since his senior year of high school. While he doesn’t personally know anyone who has needed a blood transfusion, he takes pride in helping others.

“It’s a warm, fuzzy feeling to know you’re possibly saving a life. One day, there might come a time where I need blood, or my daughter, so I will give now and hopefully, somebody will give if we ever need it.”

There were other benefits, too.

“When I was in high school, they had a donor clinic come, so my friends and I went. When I was in university, they paid me to donate and I used the money to buy beer. My father was also giving blood at the time. We made a little competition of it and it continued from there. It always seemed like a good thing to do and each donation can save up to three lives, so that is great. They also have doughnuts for donors from time to time.”

Hay donates roughly every eight weeks and his O-negative blood has been used for transfusions for babies and other patients in need.

His milestone comes at an important time, as Canadian Blood Services desperately needs donors.

“Over Canada right now, the regular donor base is down 31,000 donors, making it the lowest it’s been in a decade,” said Brett Lawrence, community development manager for Canadian Blood Services in Winnipeg. “We need 100,000 new donors each year. It’s hard to get people to donate during the summer because people are on vacation and it’s easy to forget the importance of blood donation, but donation during the summer is more important than ever.”

The organization has 75 openings for July long weekend and more than 16,000 available slots for the month.

“About one in two people in Canada is eligible to donate blood, but only one in 81 does. There’s a very small amount of people maintaining an entire country’s blood supply,” Lawrence said.

The need for blood comes after the pandemic when fewer people were donating due to safety reasons and as people travel during the summer.

“If someone is in a car collision, they may need up to 50 units of blood. A leukemia patient could use up to eight units of blood for one week of treatment. There are a variety of scenarios that the blood is used for and we need to remind people that the need is still there.”

Kevin Wiersema started donating blood five years ago and tries to go as often as he can.

“When I started, I didn’t have time to donate my time to charity work, but I knew the easiest way I could give back to the community would be to donate blood,” he said. “I always try to explain to people how quick and easy it is to book an appointment and donate. Within five minutes of walking in the door, you are giving blood.”

The act of donating was put in perspective for him when a friend’s family member needed blood.

“Once I saw that, I realized not only that it’s important to donate to give back to the community, but that this has directly impacted people I know. Every time I donate, I post about it on social media and try to get others to go.”

Canadian Blood Services encourages others to book an appointment to donate at blood.ca for their Winnipeg location at 777 William Ave.

bryce.hunt@freepress.mb.ca

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