A blood drive with a personal touch

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Though Ella won’t need more blood transfusions, Dorscht family is happy to keep giving back
The Dorscht family – Cameron, Ella, Kristen and Nick (absent) – are reaching out to the Elmira and Linwood communities with two upcoming blood donor clinics, asking people to donate in honour of Ella, who received many blood transfusions while at Sick Kids Hospital, and to support the many people who need blood every day. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
An Elmira family is asking the community to sit down, relax and roll up their sleeves again for two upcoming blood donor clinics.

Clinics in Elmira on Oct. 27 and in Linwood on Nov. 4 are being done in Kristen and Nick Dorscht’s daughter Ella’s name. Ella was born with pulmonary hypertension, a disease which affects only 5,000 people in Canada.

Ella also has a heart defect and spent the first two months of her life at Sick Kids Hospital, undergoing two open-heart surgeries. Using an artificial heart and lung machine after the surgeries resulted in her developing pulmonary hypertension.

Her parents encouraged the community to donate blood in her name last year to replace the units of blood she used while in the hospital. They collected 103 units, surpassing their 100-unit goal.

While they reached their goal, they recognize the need is still there and always will be.

“Just because we’ve given back what Ella used – and knock on wood we don’t anticipate Ella needing blood in the next little while – but that doesn’t mean that lots of other people don’t still need it every single day,” Kristen said.

She says it’s also a nice way to put a face to what you’re doing and knowing it really does make a difference.

Their goal is 100 units this year and so far they’re at 61. They’re hopeful they can get the last 39 donors with the two clinics.

They moved the clinics to a month later than last year because turnouts weren’t as high as the clinics expected. They think this is because last year the weather was good in September and much of the farming community was occupied.

The Dorscht family will be on hand for the clinics and anyone who stops by the clinic, whether they donate or not, can enter their name in a draw for prizes like gift cards for the LCBO, Tim Hortons, Home Hardware, as well as a spa basket and Sugar Kings tickets.

Kristen notes if people are looking to have their donation count towards Team Ella they need to specify that when they donate. The donations will be made in her name and going into another patient that needs it because Ella doesn’t require blood transfusions now.

“If we can help do the advertising and donate some prizes and talk to the donors and help them know what they’re doing is really appreciated then I think that that does help,” Kristen said.

As for Ella, she had surgery in August and the doctors said she’s the same as she was last summer, heart-wise. It’s a bit disappointing she hasn’t improved, but Kristen says on the other hand it’s good she hasn’t worsened. She’ll repeat the surgery again next summer.

And if it weren’t for the oxygen tank that goes with Ella everywhere, you’d never know she has a heart condition.

“She’s super active, super happy. She doesn’t have any outward signs for her heart. She kind of confuses the doctors in that way, that her test results show that she should be tired and lethargic, but she’s a big ball of energy and she never slows down,” Kristen said.

Ella is like any other three-year-old. She spent the summer riding her tricycle, swimming and even went down waterslides with her oxygen tank.

Kristen notes the donor clinics have changed the donation steps, speeding up the process.

“Before you had to see a nurse to do some paperwork, then you would answer a whole bunch of questions on a piece of paper by yourself, then you’d have to wait to go into a booth to see another nurse and she would ask you a whole bunch more questions and do your vitals. Now they’ve changed it so that all the questions are asked on an iPad,” Kristen said.

Those uncomfortable with technology can still have all the questions asked in person or on paper instead.

The need for donors is even greater this year because some donation requirements have changed. Extra travel restrictions means people who took a trip down south have to wait one year until after they took the trip to donate blood.

“It’s important for those that can donate to go out and donate because there’s so many people that need it all the time. You never anticipate that you are going to need it or anybody in your family or your friends are going to need it, but the needs come up all the time,” Kristen said.

The first donor clinic is at the Elmira Lions Hall on Oct. 27 from 2-8 p.m. The second clinic is at the Linwood Community Centre on Nov. 4 from 2:30 to 8:30 p.m.