Gilles Brunet has donated blood 165 times. (Photo: Francis Tessier-Burns).

‘Blood, it’s in you to give,’ 165 times for this man

On July 20, Gilles Brunet walked into the mobile blood donor clinic set up at the Vankleek Hill community centre to donate blood for the 165th time.

Born and raised in Hawkesbury, he had to be rushed to the hospital in the early 1970s after getting his leg caught in a hay bayler. He lifts his right pant leg and uncovers a craterous scar in his calf.

“I don’t remember if I needed a blood transfusion,” he says. But his time in the hospital is what kickstarted his desire to donate.

New regulations, fewer donors

In October last year, Canadian Blood Services (CBS) passed new regulations surrounding iron levels in donor blood. Part of the new rules, which went into effect last December, changed the waiting period for women, who are now required to wait 12 weeks instead of eight.

And since March, male donors need  a slightly higher level of hemoglobin, 130g/L instead of 125g/L, to be eligible for donation.

These new rules have been a factor in the overall blood shortage this year. In June, Canadian Blood Services put out a call since blood levell were reaching a critical level.

In response, Canadians donated more than 73,500 units of blood, said Mary Ann St. Michael, a spokesperson for CBS, in an email to The Review.

But the call for blood continues. 

Each donation is about 500 mL. (Photo: Francis Tessier-Burns).

Now, the organization is calling for 155,000 donation before Labour Day in September. St. Michael’s email mentioned that all blood types are necessary, especially O negative since it’s the only type compatible with all other types.

“While our supply of O negative blood has increased to a 3.9-day supply, we need to have between a five and eight-day supply of blood and blood products to meet anticipated hospital demands,” she said.

Summer is a particularly straining time, said St. Michael.

“Travel, holidays, family activities and changes in routines mean that there tends to be fewer donations during the summer months.”

‘You feel good’

Screened, called, and hooked up, Brunet sits in his chair squeezing a red foam ball to get the blood pumping through his left arm.

In his younger years, he played hockey multiple times a week and when he’d donate he’d have to sit in the chair for longer since his heart didn’t need to pump as hard. Now blood flows quicker into the 500 mL bag.

“That’s a silver lining of being less in shape,” he jokes.

Overall, St. Michael said 63 units of blood were collected at yesterday’s clinic. Brunet was one of 77 donors that showed up at the clinic in Vankleek Hill, but 14 were turned away for various reasons such as low hemoglobin levels or recent travel. 

For Brunet, it’s just the right thing to do.

“You feel really good after,” he says.

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