The massive success of superhero films says one big thing about society. We’d all like to be heroes. While humans can’t shoot laser beams from our eyes, run faster than the speed of light or teleport through a time continuum, we can donate blood and save a life.
To Tricia Tuchscherer, there is no greater hero. Her son, Tyler Grycan, 9, a fourth grader at Muriel Martin Elementary School, was born with a congenital heart defect. In his short life, the happy-go-lucky boy has received six open-heart surgeries and for two years has been on a heart transplant list.
“In one of his surgeries, the bleeding was out of control, and he needed multiple transfusions,” said Tuchscherer. As Tyler grows older, he has started to experience pulmonary issues in addition to coronary problems.
“It’s very stressful for us. But as he gets older, he advocates more for himself. But anytime he goes through surgery, it breaks our heart and it’s very frightening. There’s always the chance something might happen, or he could have a stroke or heart attack.”
Tyler has a rare blood type, AB Positive, and requires a 98.5 per cent match for a heart transplant. In the meantime, he receives infusions when needed.
“Donating blood and donating plasma saves lives. It means the world to us that people have donated blood and saved Tyler’s life. I can’t express how much that means to me – strangers stepping up to save his life. I can’t say how much I feel,” Tuchscherer said.
Retired electrician Gerald Trylinski, 68, is not acquainted with Tyler. But the senior has taken it upon himself to donate blood regularly.
“I started in my early 20s. I just wanted to help people. And over the years, I’ve donated on and off. I’ve always been aware of the need for blood,” said Trylinski.
He had booked an appointment at St. Albert Inn’s mobile unit on June 27 to donate a unit.
“I just know I can help other people. You just help your brother because you know people are suffering. They get in a situation that is way out of their control – sickness, car accidents. And I’m happy to help people in their most vulnerable situations. It’s one of the easiest things you can do, and it’s one of the most gratifying.”
Canadian Blood Services (CBS) ran a massive blood drive in June hoping to fill 150,000 appointments across the country. The Edmonton Metropolitan Region alone planned 10,000 appointments to fill the need over the summer months. Two thousand appointments still need to be filled.
“We had a big push for blood donations in June,” said Tianna Doyle, Canadian Blood Services Territory Manage for Edmonton and area’s mobile units.
“The summer months are more difficult to collect blood. Families go on vacation. They go travelling and it’s not at the top of their mind. But the need for blood doesn’t go on vacation. Cancer treatments and surgeries continue. There are bad car accidents. On average you need 50 units of blood to save a life in some serious accidents,” Doyle said.
Since CBS operates Canada-wide, all collected blood becomes part of a national inventory. Once collected, it is pooled and goes wherever needed. Although the bulk stays in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario have also received blood products.
All blood types are needed, however O Negative is the universal donor. In an emergency situation, it can be administered to anyone.
“It’s in all ambulances and STARS helicopters. It’s commonly used in emergency situations. If you haven’t been tested, we give you O Negative,” said Doyle.
All donated blood can be split into three products thereby assisting three patients. Blood is administered to patients in car accidents. Plasma is administered to burn patients and to treat immune deficiencies while platelets are offered to cancer and leukemia patients.
Despite the care taken to preserve the three products, they have a different set of parameters and a limited shelf life. Red blood can be stored for 42 days whereas platelets only survive seven days. Plasma, however, can be frozen for up to a year.
To reach its target, the Edmonton region requires about 4,000 units on an ongoing basis.
“I really want to stress we need people to donate over the summer. If you are eligible to donate, we ask you visit the Canadian Blood Services website and make an appointment.”
Visit blood.ca or call 1-888-236-6283.