For Laya McCannel, the decision to become a blood donor was an easy choice.
Her participation in the Canadian Blood Services donor clinic on Westwood Drive last week was her chance to give back to a service that's kept her father alive after he suffered complications from knee surgery.
"My dad gets two units of blood a day, and seeing him get all that blood convinced me it was time for me to start donating," said McCannel.
The 17-year-old Kelly Road secondary school Grade 12 student brought along her friend Kaitlynn Leakey and they were there to help their school win the Young Blood For Life high school challenge, which runs from September to May. The Kelly Road students are trying to collect the most pints among the five high schools in the city. PGSS narrowly beat Kelly Road last year for the title.
McCannell was a bit worried about the needle being poked into her vein but nurse Alex McGhee put those fears to rest. "I thought the needle would hurt more than it did," said McCannel.
Leakey was also a first-time donor and plans to become a regular. Donors have to be at least 17 years old to be eligible.
"It was fulfilling, you feel like you're doing something good," said Leakey. "I'm trying to get my brothers to do it, too. You can donate six times a year and I want to get to 100 donations."
Blood donation is a habit for some Prince George residents and many donate as often as they can -- every 56 days. That's how long it takes to replace the platelets. Cheryl Tedford was at the clinic last week donating her 44th pint. Her inspiration came 22 years ago, when she needed a series of blood transfusions when she experienced severe hemorrhaging while giving birth to her twin sons.
"If not for blood from here I wouldn't have been ready for my kids -- they were ready to leave the hospital before I was," said Tedford. "That's what keeps me going."
Donors will be asked for proof of identity and to fill out a health questionnaire. Before the donation can proceed, each donor must pass a simple (virtually painless) blood test to determine if iron levels are high enough for the donation to proceed. Blood pressure, pulse and body temperature are checked and after a short wait, donors are assigned to one of the five beds.
Blood components are given to accident victims, surgical patients and people being treated for such conditions as leukemia, liver disease, cancer or clotting disorders.
Each blood donation can be broken down into three components -- red blood cells, plasma, platelets and cryoprecipitate. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues, platelets are used for blood coagulation or clotting, and plasma helps the body maintain blood volume and blood pressure, and helps prevent infections and excessive bleeding.
A small amount of each donation is sent immediately from Prince George to Calgary for testing for hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, syphillis, human T-Cell lymphotropic virus and West Nile virus. Bar-coding on each donation allows for easy tracking if it is determined there are any tainted samples. The majority of each donation is sent to the Canadian Blood Services clinic in Vancouver, where it is stored until it can be distributed to hospitals around the province.
Red blood cells can be held in cold storage for up to 42 days; platelets are good for five days stored at room temperature; and other components, such as plasma and cryoprecipitate, can be stored frozen for up to one year.
* Last week, Prince George won the 15th annual Interior Drive For Life six-week challenge, edging out Kelowna in a six-week competition to collect blood and register more first-time donors.
* The Citizen has become a partner in Canadian Blood Services' Partners For Life business community program and is challenging other media outlets to get involved. A sign-up sheet for Citizen employees willing to participate will be posted in the office.
* The Prince George clinic at 2277 Westwood Dr., is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on every fourth Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call 1-888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283) to book an appointment.
* In the interests of getting a better story and doing my part to replenish the province's blood bank, I signed up to be a donor, having gone through it twice before, but not in the last 15 years. According to nurse McGhee, I had large veins and was a "quick bleeder," and had the 450-millilitre bag filled in about six minutes. I felt fine throughout the collection process and was resting on the bed when I felt a bit of hot flash come over my body and started perspiring heavily, much like the menopause symptoms my wife endures.
Citizen photographer Brent Braaten made the observation, "You don't look so good, Ted," and he was right. I felt a bit faint and immediately was surrounded by three attendants who applied cold cloths to my forehead, neck and wrists to cool me down. Once they tipped back the bed to get more blood flowing to my brain I felt fine, and after a couple sips of juice and cookies, I was good to go. Reactions like mine are common, but most people who drink lots of fluids and eat well beforehand have no difficulties.