Brian Powney is about to hit a milestone in his life.
It’s not a 50th birthday, nor a celebration of time dutifully served in his job as a computer technician for Hanover School Division. It’s not even a wedding anniversary to celebrate years of marriage to his wife, Helen.
On Oct. 18, for the 200th time in 50 years, Powney will eat a salty snack and drink a bottle of water before rolling up his sleeve to donate a pint of blood—a 473-ml bag of type A+ which will potentially save a life.
Powney has been anticipating this landmark donation for several years, but he doesn’t expect balloons and a cake.
How will he celebrate? A Diet Coke and a bag of Craisins—something sweet to bump his blood sugar back up to par.
"It’s just another regular donation," he said of the procedure, which has become just another routine in his life.
Half a century ago, a 17-year-old Powney, then living in Dauphin, brought his dad along to a Red Cross blood clinic in his school gymnasium. They both donated. At the time, Powney simply saw it as an opportunity to help someone out.
While he didn’t get the chance to donate again until some years later, that first needle prick set him on a path to become a lifelong donor. He gave a pint here and there before becoming a more consistent donor—every 56 days to be precise.
"When I hit about 50 donations, all of the sudden it started to take on a meaning to me," he said. "I started meeting people that, had it not been for blood donors, they would be dead."
A colleague once explained to him the effect that receiving blood had on her when she was in the hospital, turning her complexion from grey to pink.
The tales Powney heard from recipients helped solidify his reason to give.
Now 66, Powney is sharing his own story to encourage others to take an hour out of their day, six times a year, to donate blood.
Statistics Canada reports that 52 percent of Canadians say they, or a family member, have needed blood or blood products at some point in their lives.
A blood donation can be used whole by a single matching recipient, or platelets, plasma, or red blood cells can be extracted and used for a patient’s specific needs.
However, only four percent of those eligible to give blood actually do so.
While Powney hasn’t met anyone who has received some of his own blood, meeting those who have benefitted from donations keeps him coming back.
"I’m getting that gratification, regardless of whether it’s my blood or part of my blood…you get to see the results of what’s being accomplished through what you’re doing."
Regular contributors, while not exactly rare, don’t hit milestones like 200 too often, said Brett Howe, territory manager for Canadian Blood Services in Manitoba.
Howe said getting people involved in the system is something they strive to do.
"People know that it’s a selfless thing to do to be able to help," he said. "It’s a way to give back to the community."
With elective surgeries set to ramp up again as COVID-19 hospitalizations decrease, the need for blood is even higher, Howe said. And, while the pandemic didn’t interrupt the blood-donating process, it reinforced why Powney gives whenever he can.
"Helping people doesn't have to be a face-to-face connection. Helping people is taking a little bit of time to do something small, it accomplishes big things; you don't see the process in between and that's okay. It's more important that I'm doing my part," he said.
Powney said he won’t retire after 200 donations.
"As long as I’m healthy and able to, I’ll donate blood."