Blood…The Gift Of Life

Pipestone Flyer

Hassan, a native of Syria is no stranger to donating blood. In his native country, donating blood is almost mandatory.


In our country, there is so much that we have and are willing and able to share… Whether it is funds to support the less fortunate, home or abroad, skills to invest in a worthy cause –we call it volunteerism- or the blood that keeps us alive, available to be shared with others in a critical need of it, we choose to be selfless with what is precious to us….

“Blood, it’s in you to give!” is the motto of the Canadian Blood Services (CBS), an organization created to collect the lifeline of healthy human beings, and distribute it to the ones who need it – usually in a critical medical circumstance. Quoting the CBS’s informative and complex website (, “Approximately every minute of every day, someone in Canada needs blood. In fact, according to a recent poll, 52 per cent of Canadians say they, or a family member, have needed blood or blood products for surgery or for medical treatment.” The good news is that one blood donation – in just one hour – can save a life.  

The basic needs of blood recipients are: 2 units for a hip replacement surgery, 5 units for cancer treatment, 5 units or more for cardiovascular surgery, 2 to 8 units for internal bleeding, up to 50 units (yes, fifty!) for a road accident victim.  One unit of blood is equivalent to one donation. Canadian Blood Services is responsible for recruiting blood and bone marrow donors, as well as collecting blood, plasma, and platelets at 41 permanent collection sites and more than 19,000 donor clinics annually.

Canadian Blood Services collects whole blood. Whole blood is comprised of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma. Some donations are held and transfused as whole blood, others are processed to separate red blood cells and plasma.

All whole blood donations undergo leukoreduction, a process whereby white blood cells are removed. White blood cells often carry viruses and bacteria that can be detrimental to the recovery of the recipient. Some donors donate plasma through a process called plasmapheresis. The donor’s blood is processed through an apheresis machine that extracts only the plasma and returns the rest of the blood to the donor. Plasma may be transfused into a patient or further processed into other products.

Platelets can be donated through a process called plateletpheresis. The donor’s blood is processed through an apheresis machine, much like in a plasma donation. In this case, only the platelets are collected and the rest of the blood is returned to the donor.

To answer fears expressed by potential blood donors, let me add that donating blood does not put you at risk of disease. All needles are sterile, used only once and discarded. The usual blood collection – a "unit" – is about half a litre, or one pint. Your body soon replaces all the blood you donate; a bit of tiredness is to be expected after a blood donation.  Of course, there are strict parameters to being a blood donor, such as when having had a cold or flu, then complete recovery is mandatory, having had a body piercing or tattoo, ( more than 6 months prior ), and some time restrictions following dental treatment.  Minimal time between donations is 56 days.  

PARTNERS FOR LIFE is a wonderful partnership between CBS and Canadian employers that sees a CBS bus pick up nearby blood donors and bring them to the Edmonton Southside clinic, or travel with staff and equipment – a mobile clinic –  to another municipality.  Employers commit to keeping their team members ‘on the clock’ if they have the opportunity to go donate during their business hours. 

There are many reasons why people wish to donate blood. A caring heart, a loved one having needed a blood transfusion, wanting to give back after having been a recipient… This is the case for a former Leduc resident, Michelle Salt, daughter of the Vrolyks in Leduc.  On June 27 of last year, Michelle, (then 26), was in a horrific motorcycle accident near Cochrane that broke 13 bones in her body, and caused the amputation of her right leg, seven inches above the knee. From the life-threatening condition STARS medics found her in, to the conclusion of her fourth major surgery, (in six days), Michelle needed 28 units of blood to survive. She has had a long and difficult recovery, laced with incredible pain and various challenges, to finally find herself walking and doing sports with a state-of-the-art prosthetic leg, the ‘Genium knee’, purchased in May 2012 with the help of generous donors in the Leduc, Edmonton & Calgary regions (some generous donors in Northern Alberta are also supporting her recovery efforts).

Michelle and her family, (our family), have become passionate promoters of the blood donation concept.  Following the success of the MEGALEG Fundraisers,  Michelle and her younger sister Claire Vrolyk (formerly of Calmar and Leduc) have created a MEGALEG BLOOD DRIVE, stretching from June 15 to October 15, with the aim to gather 84 units of blood between the two regions.  Family and friends were encouraged to mention the MEGALEG campaign when showing up for their appointment at the CBS clinic of their choice and their precious donation would be credited to Michelle Salt’s endeavor.

Leah Carlson and Claire Vrolyk show off the MEGALEG BLOOD DRIVE pamphlet that promoted blood donations towards this great campaign.


On June 27, to celebrate Michelle’s one-year journey of recovery, the two sisters created a challenge between Edmonton and Calgary where 10 evening appointments (in each city) were created to launch the campaign.  Several people honored this date, and some had to postpone, and their donations were eventually collected and added to the others of June 27… So far over 61 donations have been collected, and the momentum is growing. 

The MEGALEG BLOOD DRIVE gathering at the Canadian Blood Services Headquarters in Edmonton’s Southside, in the UofA Hospital neighborhood was like a reunion of old friends.  Leduc young ladies Leah Carlson and Jenny Balding were thrilled to participate for their own reasons.  Jenny had brought two relatives with her, one a cousin, Beth Dyck of Devon, who had donated thirteen times in the past, but with a long interval until this day, she was ‘pinned’ with a First Time Donor sticker… Jenny’s other cousin, a friendly 18-year old, was crushed when told his donation would have to wait, as he had just received a tattoo, barely three months prior.  Which made it clear to our group that all potential blood donors should visit the website prior to making an appointment.

A colleague of Claire’s from Park Mazda in Sherwood Park was excited to donate towards such a worthy cause, and even brought a friend. Hassan, a payroll officer with the dealership, was born and raised in Syria; this was his first time donating blood in Canada, a process he is extremely familiar with. He had some interesting facts to share.   In his country, donating blood is almost mandatory. Blood donations are expected when an individual registers for university, applies for a driver’s license, enters the armed forces, and accepts a government job.  Expectations that other countries are looking at closely.

Entering the spacious and equipment-filled main floor of the CBS building, a staff member greets visitors cheerfully. We immediately of course mentioned the MEGALEG Blood Drive, and were sent to stations where helpful and congenial staff started the ball rolling… A CBS worker explained the screening process to us, focusing on the ‘hemoglobin levels of the donor’s blood’, (through a tiny, painless prick on the finger) the questions asked, i.e. recent travels and immunization, the printing and signing of all information gathered, the ‘health screening’ that includes more questions and a blood pressure check, all this done before the actual blood donation… Other CBS team members were helpful with information, caring, cheerful and simply… memorable!

Being in constant touch with the CBS, Claire recently enlightened us to the sad statistic that only 4% of Canadians give blood! We hope that having shed some light on the one-hour easy and painless process of donating blood, and the MEGALEG BLOOD DRIVE created by two former Leduc/Calmar daughters, that our readers will be empowered by this option of giving back. (You can also call 1-888-2donate for more info or to make an appointment!). We are reminded that blood… it’s in us to give!