A face behind blood donation

Penny Thornton-Trump strolls the corridors of Saanich Peninsula Hospital as she recieves her regular infusion of gamma globulin. - Emma Prestwich/News staff
Penny Thornton-Trump strolls the corridors of Saanich Peninsula Hospital as she recieves her regular infusion of gamma globulin.
— image credit: Emma Prestwich/News staff

For one North Saanich woman, blood donations have saved her life every two weeks for the past 40 years.

Penny Thornton-Trump, 69, is missing gamma globulin, a vital blood protein that helps her body fight off infection. Every second Thursday she receives intravenous infusions of the protein to stay healthy.

While she still deals with daily lung, ear and sinus infections, the treatments, which she began receiving in 1970, have drastically improved her quality of life. Before the infusions, she was seriously ill and had to be hospitalized regularly.

“I’m so thankful and proud to be a productive member of society leading a wonderful and precious life,” she said in an open letter to donors. “It matters not whether you’ve donated one time or dozens of times, you are my angels who let me carry on day after day.”

She shares her story at the mobile blood clinic at Mary Winspear Centre every month to show potential donors where their blood could be going.

“They are really happy to have a face and a story. I tell them that because of them, I keep trucking along,” she said.

This summer has seen a low number of people donate.

Catherine Sloot, a partnership specialist with Canadian Blood Services, said while the season is usually a struggle, because many regular donors are away, this summer has been particularly challenging.

She said B.C. has the lowest province-wide donation rate in Canada — 2.5 per cent of eligible people donate, compared to the national number of four per cent.

The Sidney clinic at Mary Winspear has also seen a drop in collection. A clinic used to run every two weeks, and now, it only runs two days a month.

Sloot thinks now is a prime time to promote blood donation to seniors, because Canadian Blood Services has now abolished the age limit for returning donors. The previous cut-off was 61.  Now, it’s possible to donate indefinitely, as long as the person is cleared by their doctor and is not a first-time donor. The physician must fill out a letter available on the Blood Services website, found under ‘Can I donate?’ on the main page and then Basic Eligibility.

Donors who are between the ages of 67 and 71 and who haven’t donated for the past two years also need to be assessed by a doctor.

“So many of our senior citizens are so healthy,” she said. “We need to capture the rest of that community.”

She appreciates the impact Thornton-Trump’s story has on people at the clinic.

“She’ll sit with them ... the donors are just blown away.”

The next clinic at the Mary Winspear Centre will be Sept. 21 and 22, call 1-800-2-DONATE to book an appointment.

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