OP/ED: Canadian Blood Services

A filled blood bag. (Credit: ICSident/Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA 3.0)

I’m a proud supporter of the Canadian Blood Service. I’ve only been able to make a dozen successful donations since I turned 18 due in part to the rules in place for said donations – you have to wait six months post-tattoo, and your iron level has to be at least 126. I like tattoos, and I’m mildly anaemic, but I still try to donate every few months.

The concept of donating blood is important to me. My grandfather died when I was 18 after being in a car accident, and the doctors who tried to save him gave him a blood transfusion at some point between his arrival at the hospital and death. In no way do I blame those doctors for what happened – they did what they could. The knowledge that someone else’s generosity could have saved my Opa’s life in an ideal world struck me, and I went to donate the next time there was a donor’s clinic in my hometown. One donation can help 2-4 lives, and it made me happy to do my part despite my dislike for seeing blood.

I lived in a small town until I was 20 years old. In the two years between when I started giving blood and when I moved to Brandon for university, there was a blood donor’s clinic held every two to three months in either the Morden recreation centre, or the gymnasium of one of Winkler’s larger churches. I tried to book an appointment for them if I could make it work with my work schedule, consumed mass amounts of water on the day of, and actually raced myself for a faster time each donation (my fastest time was just under five minutes). Once, I had to rescind my appointment time because my blood pressure was low after waiting for half an hour to see the public health nurse who tests blood pressure, checks for track marks, and takes temperature – it was a rainy day and quite a few of the nearby farmers and Hutterite colonists had decided to use the unexpected time off to give back to the community as walk-ins. The point I’m getting at here is that the clinics were always full, always busy, and always worth the time and energy of the people who ran it.

When I found out there was a permanent location in Brandon, I was pretty excited. I could donate more frequently and at times that worked better for my schedule – in the morning, mid-afternoon, or early evening. The people who staff this location in the dead town centre are all very kind, efficient individuals. It is always busy, with at least four people donating and a few more waiting to see the nurse or get a chair.

The fact that the permanent Brandon clinic was always busy is why the announcement that it was closing surprised me. Coming from a small town that relies on clinicians coming from Winnipeg once every two months, my perspective is that Brandon is a city that needs more than the promised twice a month clinics – weather dependent. There are many communities surrounding Brandon that rely on the regularity of the permanent clinic to make their donations. I am so, so disappointed in the Manitoba government for cutting into the budgets of health care and education.

The premier’s office was contacted by this student for comment, but as at publication, no response was received.

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 107, Issue 26, March 21, 2017.