Donors walking through the doors of the Canadian Blood Services clinic on Saanich Road know they’ll be making a big difference in the lives of people they have never met, half a litre at a time.
“I try to get in here every 56 days,” said Hugh Wilzewski as he catches up on the news while his blood is collected.
The Central Saanich man estimates he has donated more than 70 times over the course of his life.
“It’s a bit of public service,” Wilzewski says of the hour-long process involved in donating blood. “I think it’s a worthwhile civic duty, you’re helping a lot of people.”
Ann Chabert, the territory manager with Canadian Blood Services, says the Saanich clinic has a target of collecting from about 100 donors, on average, a day.
“There is no alternative. We can’t make blood. If a patient goes to the hospital in need of surgery after a car crash or there’s someone who needs cancer treatment, and there’s blood needed for almost everything,” said Chabert, adding a national inventory allows blood to be directed to region’s where it’s needed most.
“It has to be safe, it has to be available and it has to be free. And we’re the only supply in Canada.”
While Canadian Blood Services reaches out to all Canadians to make a donation, those with O- blood are particularly needed.
“They’re called the universal donors,” said Chabert. “Especially in an emergency when they don’t have time to type the blood of the patient, they use O-. That’s the easiest blood type, but it’s only seven per cent of the population. So those people get a lot of calls from us.”
The clinic at 3449 Saanich Rd. is open Tuesday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and alternating Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Mondays, the clinic operates a mobile donation unit that travels to communities across the South Island.
“We prefer that people make an appointment because that gives us a bit of a heads up on how the day’s going to go. Some days are busier, some hours are busier,” said Chabert. “But if you have no time and you just want to see and walk in and risk it, you’re more than welcome.”
Over the past month donors have been encouraged to fill out cards sending messages of support to cancer patients in recognition of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil campaign.
Chabert said the Saanich clinic is run through the efforts of hundreds of committed volunteers.
“We have some people who can’t donate, and that’s an alternative. If you can’t donate you can come out and volunteer.”
And Chabert has some words of comfort for those who say they’re afraid of needles.
“Just give it a try, it really is just a poke,” she said, adding the hour it takes is worth the effort. “I think that’s a [small sacrifice] to save somebody’s life.”