Putting a face to those helped by blood donations

Organizing the Penny Lett blood drive was no big deal, until I met blood donor recipients and heard their stories, writes Jenna Hauck.

Liset Stanton tells the story of her son Daniel’s battle with leukemia who was a recipient of umbilical cord blood. Daniel strung one bead for every time he went for chemotherapy on this single piece of string (pictured). Below: Honouring Our Lifeblood award winners tour the manufacturing plant in Ottawa. Bottom: Craig Knight

Sometimes an act of kindness that is second-nature to one person can mean the world to another.

I learned this firsthand while in Ottawa earlier this month where I heard stories from a handful of blood recipients, and met dozens of fellow award winners, during the Canadian Blood Services Honouring Our Lifeblood awards ceremony.

Celia Missios was one of the blood recipients who spoke during the awards gala. She told the story of when she was struck by a car while crossing a street. She ended up needing more than 50 units of blood.

One mother, Liset Stanton, shared her story of her son Daniel. Diagnosed with leukemia at the age of six, his life was saved by a donation of umbilical cord blood.

Another recipient’s story, shown on video, explained that she needed 86 units of blood.

Their stories were heartwarming. Each recipient expressed sincere gratitude towards the award winners in the room.

I realized at that point, after years of being a blood donor, that I had not heard many stories about the recipients of donor blood and blood products. And though it didn’t bother me at all, I was never able to put a face to who might have received my blood.

I’d go donate blood, have some tea and cookies, go home again, and then return eight weeks later to donate again. It was simple.

Last year, after my friend and coworker Penny Lett (who was also an avid blood donor and who encouraged me to donate) passed away, I wanted to do something more. Something to help others. Something selfless. Something Penny would do.

So I organized the In Memory of Penny Lett blood drive. Thanks to Chilliwack donors, it was much more successful than I ever could have imagined. We collected 420 units of blood — far more than our goal of 125 units.

That was the reason I was in Ottawa receiving an award.

But despite the success of the blood drive, I always said it was “no big deal.”

I was one of 28 peer recruiters, milestone donors, volunteers, corporate partners, and others to be recognized in Ottawa on Sept. 15. The night before the awards, each recipient stood up and spoke briefly about their story and why they were there.

As the stories kept coming, I noticed a common thread.

Humbleness.

Every person who spoke hinted at, or flat out said, that what they had accomplished and the reason they were there receiving a national award from CBS was “no big deal.”

They sounded like me.

Many started off by saying “I haven’t really done much” or “everyone here has a better story than I have.”

But they were wrong. I was wrong. It was a big deal.

There was Glyn Weir who has donated 500 times. There was Michael T. Hayes, the living organ donor, who donated a portion of his liver and then later, one of his kidneys. There was Morley Reid who has volunteered more than 5,000 hours of his time to support patients in need. There was Melanie Melchin who, after losing her six-year-old son to a brain tumour, started the Donate for Nolan blood drive last year where she recruited several new donors and collected 103 units of blood.

Many numbers were flying around the room — numbers of volunteer hours, numbers of donations made, numbers of units of blood collected.

And again, people were saying that the numbers were “no big deal”, that the numbers “didn’t matter.”

But they did matter.

Every unit of blood counts. Every unit makes a difference in someone’s life.

Blood donors will likely never meet a single person whom they’ve helped. But, fellow donors, understand that the recipients are very thankful for what you do. You do make a difference.

So please keep donating, keep recruiting, keep volunteering. And encourage others to do the same.

Announce on social media that you’re donating blood and ask a friend or two to join you. Don’t be shy to post a selfie on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook while you’re donating — be proud!

The more we spread the word about the need for donated blood, let’s hope the more people will donate.

In Memory of Penny Lett blood drive 2014 update:

The pledge for this year’s blood drive is to collect 500 units. As of Sept. 22, we are currently at 455 units of blood, and I have no doubt that we will reach our goal.

Chilliwack donors, thank you for giving your time and blood to help us reach our goal, but more importantly, thank you for helping save people’s lives.

 

Read more info on each of the Honouring Our Lifeblood award recipients on the CBS website.

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