Sara Smith is a happy, active four-and-a-half-year-old who lives in Main Brook, on our province’s Northern Peninsula. She looks like any other toddler — except that Sara was born with half a heart.
Sara has been diagnosed with a number of congenital heart defects, including: hypoplastic right heart, pulmonary stenosis, double outlet right ventricle, transposition of the vessels and a ventricular septal defect.
At just six weeks old, Sara had her first open-heart surgery at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). Unfortunately, in recovery, Sara went into cardiac arrest for 35 minutes and she was placed on life support for three days. Due to further complications, Sara required a second open-heart surgery just five weeks later. Due to her size, her recovery was slow, but overall, it was much smoother.
In April 2017, Sara and her family found themselves back at SickKids for Sara's third open-heart surgery. Again, Sara faced some challenges that necessitated they extend their stay at the hospital.
During all of Sara’s surgeries and recovery, she required many blood transfusions and other vital blood products from Canadian Blood Services. They literally gave her “the gift of life.” And, now, Sara’s parents, Dave and Danielle (Galgay) Smith encourage others to consider the impact donating blood can have on others like Sara.
“We are so grateful to all those who have donated, and we encourage everyone to consider giving the gift of life,” Danielle says.
How donated blood saves lives
“Every minute of every day, someone in Canada needs blood, and often from more than one generous donor,” says Gordon Skiffington, territory manager, Canadian Blood Services.
The need for blood donors is significant, especially when you consider how many donor’s blood or blood products are actually required for such things as surgeries or other instances where there is significant blood loss. For example it can take:
• Up to five donors to save someone who needs heart surgery
• Up to eight donors a week to help someone with leukemia
• Up to five donors to help someone undergoing cancer treatment
• Up to two to eight donors to help someone with internal bleeding
• Up to two donors every day to help someone undergoing a bone marrow transplant
This need for blood donations is ongoing, especially as blood and blood products have a very short shelf-life. While one in two (half of all Canadians) are eligible to donate blood, sadly, only one in 60 people (1.66 per cent) actually do, according to Canadian Blood Services. Despite this, 50 per cent of all Canadians have either needed blood at some time, or they know someone who has.
Some people are not able to donate blood for a number of reasons, but that doesn’t meant they can’t help. “Canadian Blood Services is always looking for volunteers to help give life — you can help by supporting blood donors during the donation process, recruiting people for blood or stem cell donations, organizing a blood donor clinic in your community or simply raising awareness of the importance of blood donation,” says Skiffington.
You can also help by encouraging others to donate, says Skiffington. This, alone, can go a long way to helping keep blood available for those hospital patients who rely on it for their treatment.
To help you get started, Skiffington says you can go to blood.ca to learn more and to book your appointment. You can also book an appointment by calling 1-888-2-DONATE or simply drop by Canadian Blood Services at 7 Wicklow Street. They are open Tuesday - Saturday each week. For more information, visit Canadian Blood Services’ website at: https://blood.ca.