Right now is best time to give blood

Winkler Fire Chief Richard Paetzold, Territory Manager for Canadian Blood Services Steve Raizen, Winkler Fire Captain Ernie Froese, Winkler Police Deputy Chief Chris Kalansky and Winkler Fire Deputy Chief Phil Dueck kicked off the Sirens for Life campaign. (LAUREN MACGILL, Winkler Times)

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Winkler Fire Department and Winkler Police Service will be going head to head this summer to pull in donations of blood.

The Sirens for Life campaign will run July 1 to August 31, and the fire and police departments are encouraging people from Winkler and surrounding area to donate blood on their behalf.

Territory manager for Canadian Blood Services Steve Raizen said the goal is to get donors to come out in the summertime, where there is an extra need for donors. Raizen said the initiative aims to provide a fun and competitive way to try to get prospective donors to give blood.

At the end of the summer, donor numbers will be tallied to see whether the fire or police department brought out the most donors.

Raizen said donating blood is the most direct way to help a person. “You never know when you or a family member may need blood or blood products,” he said. “More than 50 per cent of Canadians will know somebody who needs blood or blood products in their lifetime.”

About 70 per cent of Canadians are eligible to donate, but only one in six actually do. “We’re really trying to bridge that gap to encourage people who have never donated before just to come out,” Raizen said. “We need about 1,000 donations a week in Manitoba just to meet hospital demand.”

One accident could require up to 50 units of blood, and Raizen said a young boy in Steinbach born with an immune disorder and required blood or blood products almost every day for the first year of his life.

“He is now well, but if it wasn’t for all those donors who had donated he just wouldn’t be with his family today,” he said. “Even if you don’t think there’s a need now, your family member could have a need tomorrow or the next day.”

Winkler Fire Captain Ernie Froese is a regular donor. He started donating blood when he was 19 years old and has given blood 127 times. Froese said he always tries to keep the fire department updated on when their next chance to donate is coming up. “I get a number of guys,” he said. “A number of guys show up and donate blood, so that’s encouraging.”

Froese said he knows firsthand how important a blood donation can be. “It’s life giving,” he said. “They need it to sustain their life, and we see that right on the scene.”

After 127 donations, Froese said he still sees the need and wants to help fill it. He had some advice for first time donors. “Just don’t look,” he said. “Sometimes you hardly even feel it.”

Winkler Police Deputy Chief Chris Kalansky said he and members of the police department often come across people who are injured, whether in an accident or in medical distress. Kalansky has been a blood donor for almost 30 years now, and said he hoped to encourage the community to follow his lead.

“We definitely see the need,” he said. “There is always a need for additional donors, and as some people are no longer able to donate blood we need the next generation to step forward and donate blood as well. As a growing population, as a growing area, we just want to encourage everyone to come out and donate.”

Kalansky said local businesses could challenge their employees to donate as well.

Winkler Fire Chief Richard Paetzold said the fire department has had firsthand experience with family members who have required blood in the past. “This is very important,” he said. “It’s come close to home with our firefighter family.”

“29 years in the fire service, you see a lot of people that require this over that time,” he added. “It’s a very good program and they’re making it easier and easier to donate.”

The next blood clinics are July 11 and August 8. Raizen said it has never been easier to book an appointment online at www.blood.ca, through the Give Blood app, or by calling 1-888-2DONATE (236-6283).

Donors should expect to spend about an hour at the donation clinic. The actual donation takes about 10 minutes.