A lifetime of saving lives

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UPCOMING BLOOD CLINICS

Wed., Oct. 4 from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the St. Albert Inn, 156 St. Albert Tr.

Sat. Oct. 7 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the St. Albert Seniors Association, 7 Taché St.

Fri., Oct. 20 from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Red Willow Community Church, 15 Corriveau Ave.

Donations can also be made anytime during regular business hours at Canadian Blood Services’ main clinic, 8249 – 114 St. in Edmonton; open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

1-888-2 DONATE (236-6283) or visit www.blood.ca to find out more.

RULES

To donate blood for the first time you must be:

  • In good general heath, feeling well and able to perform your normal activities
  • At least 17 years old
  • Meet  height and weight requirements if you are between 17 and 23 years old. Use the chart below to determine if you are ready to donate.

One sibling rivalry has saved more than 400 lives, and that number is still rising.

Marlis Gunderson of St. Albert was recognized earlier this year for reaching her milestone blood donation. Her winning streak began back in the late 1970s when she was in university, learning to become a nurse.

“Essentially, I first started because I’m a little bit competitive and my brother Les had already started donating. I thought, ‘You know what … now’s the time’,” she said.

Because of her profession, she soon saw firsthand how much blood was actually being used in the hospital. In short, it was a lot.

“I thought, ‘It’s not just about a competition. It’s about a matter of life and death for a lot of people’.”

Liz James, the local territory manager for Canadian Blood Services, said that the Sturgeon Community Hospital required 1,556 units of whole blood last year alone. That isn’t even taking into account other blood products including plasma and platelets.

Gunderson gave approximately 50 units of blood over the first several years before she switched up her competitive plan. While men can make those donations every 56 days, it’s only every 84 days for women.

Donating plasma and platelets, however, have a different schedule. You can donate plasma every seven days while platelet donations can be every two weeks if you want. Those really helped her to push her numbers up.

The importance of giving blood really hit home when her son Craig developed acute myeloid leukemia. He required hospitalization for several months in 2012 when he was 26. If her heart wasn’t already set on saving lives through the simple act of giving, his illness was the clincher. He needed “a ton” of blood.

“The amount of platelets, plasma and whole blood that he went through was astronomical. That was just another trigger … he’s just one and how many thousands of people have any type of cancer that need blood.”

After his treatments, he went into remission and has been totally cancer free since.

“He wouldn’t have made it if he didn’t have all the blood and plasma.”

Gunderson is still a nurse and still giving more blood to this day. She intends to keep her usual bi-weekly appointment next Thursday afternoon in the chair at Canadian Blood Services’ main location near the U of A Hospital. It will mark her 412th donation: another unit of plasma. That will be the 412th person’s life that she’s saved too.

That’s a lot of blood, she admits, but each donation goes fast, and the nurses know what they’re doing. It’s a pinprick and then you get to sit in a chair for an hour.

“A lot of people describe it as actually being a lot easier than even a blood test because once the needle is in you’re laying back in the chair quite relaxed,” James said. “The whole thought process of knowing that you’re saving somebody’s life … I think really takes away any thought of pain.”

“Every donation counts. Every single donation saves somebody’s life.”

Oh, and that competition with Gunderson’s brother …

“I’ve surpassed him big time,” she stated, laughing proudly.

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About Author

Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.