True Blood In Real Life: A Call To Action

Heather van Mil2 comments2358 views

My lifelong commitment to blood donation had a less than noble beginning. The small town high school I attended allowed students of eligible age (17 years currently, although I believe it was 16 at the time) to miss class in order to donate blood at the mobile clinic set up in our gym every few months. Between the form filling, the waiting, the donation, the cookies and juice, the ‘dizziness’, the second serving of cookies and juice and so on, we could stretch a single donation over several periods. As anyone from a small town can testify, entertainment is scarce, so we would have races. We would time ourselves and keep track of who ‘bled the fastest’ – as if we had some sort of control over it. I am a slow bleeder. Always came in last.

Heather's Blood Donation on Life, Love and the Pursuit of Play
The family that bleeds together…. at our traditional Valentine’s Day donation.

While I am still a surprisingly slow bleeder, the importance of blood donation is very close to my heart (pun fully intended). I had regularly donated blood on and off ever since those high school days of yore – with occasional breaks due to ineligibility because of anemia as well as various tattoos and piercings – but without a full understanding or emotional attachment to the cause I was supporting. That all changed in the middle of one of the worst winter storms to hit BC in December 2008. At the end of that cold, cold month, just a few short days after our Christmas celebrations, my husband and I welcomed our firstborn, a beautiful baby girl into the world. Unbeknownst to us, she was sick. Very sick. Our daughter was born with multiple Congenital Heart Defects, and would undergo open heart surgery at BC Children’s Hospital at a mere 17 days of age. I won’t go into details as it is a long and complex story (I wrote about it here), but as part of her surgery, Adri was placed on cardiopulmonary bypass (aka the Heart-Lung machine) which temporarily takes over the function of the heart and lungs during surgery, maintaining the circulation of blood and the oxygen content of the body. This machine is primed with donated blood before the patient is connected. We were incredibly lucky that Adri had no major complications after surgery, nor in the 5 1/2 years since, and that as an infant, they only need 0.5-1 unit of blood to prime the bypass. Many are not so lucky.

Open Heart Surgery at BC Children's Hospital
The aftermath of paediatric Open Heart Surgery

Sharing the story was prompted by the news that fellow blogger Marilyn from A Lot of Loves was in a medically induced coma due to post surgical complications. Thankfully she is awake and healing now, but needed over 100 units of blood to get to this point. Her significant need compelled a group of local bloggers, myself included, to go and donate, where we could as well as put together a blog carnival in Marilyn’s honour to inspire more people to donate blood. Did you know that over 2000 units of blood are needed daily across Canada but a paltry 3.5% of eligible donors actually donate? I urge the remaining 96.5% to get out and donate today! You can find a clinic near you here, and even book an appointment online! Don’t wait until a family or friend is in need, use your ‘get out of class free’ pass, go for the cookies and juice, whatever the motivation – just do it! For those that aren’t eligible, volunteers are always needed and appreciated! Below are the posts from bloggers participating in the Blood Donation Blog Carnival. Share your story about donating or receiving blood and help us spread the word using hashtags #bloggersforblood and #alotoflovesformarilyn. Blood Donation Blog Carnival [inlinkz_linkup id=441487 mode=1]


  1. Love this one, mostly because I’m in there, in the background at least (Note to everyone: I bleed fastest :p ). Speaking of, Ontario’s supply is at an all time low, so I’m on my way to the clinic!

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