If not for regular blood transfusions, Kendra Nixon’s son Nathaniel wouldn’t be alive today.
At 14, he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. But four years later, Nathaniel is living the life of a typical Canadian teen who has his driver’s licence, plays hockey and is headed to his first year of university.
Getting to this point has not been an easy journey; he developed various complications during and after a rocky course of treatment that included chemotherapy, radiation, various medications and more than 100 transfusions.
"He wouldn’t be here today if he didn’t have blood products, if he didn’t have the transfusions he required," Kendra Nixon says.
"They saved his life."
She was a regular donor, but didn’t know how critical donations were before her son’s diagnosis.
"It isn’t just car-accident victims or surgical patients who require blood products," she says. "Blood products are often a routine part of (cancer patients’) treatment and recovery."
Someone in Canada needs blood every 60 seconds, and as COVID-19 public-health restrictions are relaxed, the urgency for donations is increasing.
Canadian Blood Services territory manager Lisa Beechinor says the demand is increasing as hospitals return to regular procedures.
And, as vaccinations have increased, more people will be travelling at this time of year, raising the spectre of collisions in which patients will need blood products.
There is currently enough blood to meet about three days of local hospital needs, but Canadian Blood Services requires consistent donations to maintain a five- to eight-day supply.
The need increases every summer, and each year, Winnipeg’s first responders take part in their Sirens for Life challenge to increase the blood supply during July and August.
The Winnipeg Police Service has been participating since the challenge began about seven years ago.
"As first responders, we often to bear witness to situations involving critical blood loss," says police public information officer Dani McKinnon.
"Many of these traumas will make it really apparent that there is a necessity for life-saving blood."
All blood types are always needed, but Beechinor says that especially now, O-negative donors are in demand because of their compatibility with other types in an emergency situation.
"When seconds count, O-negative blood is always given," she said.
She urges those who can to donate, and for those who cannot, "one of the best things you can do is be an advocate."
Nicole Bouchard and her partner Carey Lauder make it a priority to donate as often as they can.
"It’s in us to give," says Bouchard. "So why not?"
Lauder recall his mother, a frequent blood donor, telling him when he was growing up, "We don’t have a lot of money, but the one big thing that we can donate is blood," he says.
"There’s so many people who need it."
Bouchard has 75 donations under her belt, and Lauder has 130, and even through the pandemic, the pair has been able to keep donating regularly, even without the donuts afterwards.
"I’m really grateful that I didn’t get discouraged by it, and I think people shouldn’t be discouraged by that," she says. "We have to return to our normal at some point in time, and this is part of my normal."
She even overcame her fear of needles to be able to donate.
Donating blood is free and takes little time, so "the fact that I know it’s a good thing to give to people because there’s people that will die without it, it’s kind of a no-brainer," Lauder says.
Bouchard tries as much as she can to encourage others around her to donate blood as well, either at the school she teaches at or on her social media.
There are more than 900 appointments that need to be filled in Winnipeg this month.