Earlier this month, Canadian Blood Services kicked off the annual Sirens For Life Challenge -- a friendly competition among first responders to see who can donate the most blood.
The challenge, which runs from July 1 to Sept 6, takes place over the summer months because the need for blood is typically higher during the summer, according to Gina Levya, Canadian Blood Services territory manager with the Waterloo blood donor clinic.
However, the competition carries extra weight this year, as Canadian Blood Services expect to need more than 23,000 units of blood across the country by the end of July. The surge in demand is due to provinces beginning to reopen, allowing hospitals to begin surgical procedures previously put on hold because of the pandemic.
Although they have had steady donors throughout the pandemic, that’s starting to change as things open up, which Levya says is because donating is likely not the first thing on people’s minds.
“So we have a greater need, mixed with fewer donors. And what we're seeing as a trend in our region specifically, is a lot of people cancelling their appointments at the last minute or not showing up,” she said. “That's really been a struggle for us in the past month.”
But Levya is confident the challenge will help them to meet their goal, especially through the participating groups spreading the word.
“What we've seen through COVID is the greatest help that we've received from groups like this is spreading the word,” she said. “These organizations are part of a very large community of people, so I know that when they share and they spread the word, it will reach many residents in Kitchener, Waterloo and beyond.”
Participating in Waterloo Region are Waterloo Regional Police, Waterloo and Kitchener Fire, OPP, Canada Border Services, and EMS -- all groups who know firsthand how important blood donations are.
“First responders see, for example, when there's a car accident, and someone has to be rushed to the hospital, sometimes they need blood on the way there. They understand how important having consistent blood supply is,” Levya said.
Region of Waterloo EMS Deputy Chief Robert Crossan confirmed this, telling KitchenerToday, "as Paramedics we see the need for blood and blood products every day that we work. From cancer to kidney failure to trauma patients, the need for blood products is never more acute than during this season."
According to Crossan, we're currently in the middle of the period colloquially known as 'trauma season," which runs from May 24 to Labour Day.
"Trauma season is called that because as the number of people outside enjoying the great weather soars, so does the number of vehicle collisions and trauma incidents involving motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians," he said.
As the majority of their severe trauma patients are transported to Hamilton General Hospital, they have to "race against time and control external bleeding," he said. "A severe trauma patient can require as much as 50 units of whole blood and packed red blood cells to survive major injuries."
Thus, he says their participation in the challenge is "one of the more grass roots ways to support patient and trauma care for the citizens we serve."
"We encourage members of the general public to consider a blood donation as well, it is safe, takes very little time and well definitely play a role in saving someone’s life."
Usually the winners of the competition - whichever group has the highest percentage of participation - will be awarded a trophy. But this year, Levya says they are playing down the competition aspect because of “how stressful things are for the groups.”
As such, Levya has shifted the focus to spreading the word, so that the general population will also be inspired or reminded to donate.
The KW blood donor clinic is located at 94 Bridgeport Rd E. They’ve extended their hours for the rest of the year from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursdays, and Levya notes they have “many appointments available heading into the summer months to meet the demand of the extra 23,000 units that are needed.”
You can schedule an appointment to donate blood here.