Most Canadians will have heard the Canadian Blood Services slogan “it’s in you to give” at least once in their lives, but one Greater Victoria resident has taken it as a challenge.
On Wednesday (Dec. 21), Dave Charlebois reached a significant milestone, making his 200th whole blood donation since he started giving blood at the age of 17. And as an added bonus, he wasn’t doing it alone – his son Marc was there beside him making his 40th donation.
“My motivation was my dad was a longtime blood donor, and as a kid I would always go with him when he went to donate blood,” said Dave Charlebois. “I’ve been a regular donor ever since. I’m able to do it, I have no side effects from donating, we always need donors, so anything I can do to help I’m happy to.”
Nearly without fail, Charlebois, 62, has given blood as often as he is allowed. When he first started donating, he made appointments every three months, and since then he has been allowed to donate every two months.
“It’s part of my routine,” he said. “I have a little bit of discomfort right when the needle goes in, but they say each unit of blood can help six people, so I’ve helped a lot of people and I am all too happy to do it … some day I might be on the receiving end, and I hope there is blood in the blood bank whenever that happens.”
In the more than 40 years he has been donating however, there is one donation in particular that has stuck with him. In 2002, he received a call from the bone marrow registry saying he had matched with a patient in need.
A day after he made the life-saving donation – and by coincidence on his 41st birthday – one-year-old Sarah Byrne of Guelph, Ont. received it as treatment for Hurler syndrome, a rare disease that without stem cell treatment would cause her to slowly lose her ability to move, see and even breathe.
In 2006, Charlebois was able to meet Byrne for the first time after both parties agreed to lift the confidentiality requirements of the case, and they have since met a few more times.
“That was my 41st birthday present, saving someone like that,” he said.
Despite dedicated donors like Dave and Marc, the need in Canada for blood donors is constant. At this time of year, associate director of donor relations Gayle Voyer said the need for donors only increases.
“It means the world to have someone celebrating 200 donations and to have inspired his son to contribute 40 times now,” said Voyer. “We’ve had a number of last-minute cancellations and weather challenges across the country, and those are impacting some of our donation events, so it is really important for donors to book and keep all of their appointments from now into the new year.”
Voyer said blood.ca is the best place for donors, or potential donors, to get all the information they need to book an appointment, or to answer any questions they may have if it is their first time donating. She said the organization also has a mobile app available which can even notify registered donors when an appointment opening has come up unexpectedly, for those who have some flexibility on when they give.