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Connecting Our Communities

Family encourages locals to roll up sleeves and donate blood

If you donated blood in the summer of 2013, says Elmira mother Kristen Dorscht, then you might have given the very same units that kept her newborn daughter Ella alive. It’s a powerful thought, and one that Dorscht hopes will motivate veteran donors and newcomers alike to roll up their sleeves and give a pint or two.

On October 27, between 2-8 p.m., Dorscht and her husband Nick are encouraging everyone to come by the Elmira Lions Hall to donate … and possibly save a life. In the process, people will be able to join in a raffle to win several prizes including tickets for the Elmira Sugar Kings, all courtesy of the Dorschts’ efforts.

“You really never expect that you or someone that you love is going to need blood,” said Dorscht.

Certainly, she says, they never expected their daughter would need more than 50 units of blood in the first two months of her life – but they were sure glad it was there. After Ella received the blood she needed to survive, the family decided they wanted to return the quantity they’d received by encouraging others to donate.

“We had said for years before Ella was born that donating blood was something that we should do, but we never went. Like a lot of people, we’re busy with our jobs, and you’re busy with your family and we … never got around to it,” said Dorscht.

Ella’s arrival changed all that.

The call for donations is especially significant right now because donations have been steadily declining over the past few years at the Elmira blood donor clinic. Since the start of 2017, for example, the clinic has frequently been falling below their desired goal of 115 units a month, hitting on average 89 units. In 2013, by contrast, in the first nine months of the year the blood clinic received 128 units on average every month.

Tara Gutscher, the area manager for Canadian Blood Services, says part of the reason donations are down may be the more stringent rules on giving blood. In particular, she notes, last December Canadian Blood Services changed how often females were able to donate. Women have to wait 84 days between donations, compared with males who may donate every 56 days, in order to maintain their hemoglobin and iron levels.

“So since that happened, our donations in Elmira have dropped severely. So it’s because females aren’t able to come out as often. Possibly husbands and wives or friends were donating together, so the males [don’t come out as often anymore as well],” said Gutscher.

“Honestly, lately we have not been reaching [our goal]. So we do need to find some extra support in the community. That’s why it’s so important when people like Nick and Kristen come forward and are willing to help us promote. So we really need new donors in Elmira or people who haven’t donated in a while to come out and give it a try again.”

Dorscht likewise stresses the importance of donating, especially if people meet the criteria.

“The reason I think it’s so important is that … the need never goes away,” she said. “There’s people that need blood every single day.”

This will be the Dorschts third year sponsoring the clinic. In the previous two years since they started, the clinic was able to meet or exceed their monthly goal. Dorscht is hoping this year will be the same.

Ella, meanwhile, at 4 years of age, has started school. She has pulmonary hypertension and a heart defect that keeps her wearing her oxygen tube, connected to a metal tank, but Dorscht says that has hardly slowed her down.

“The school has been absolutely fantastic,” Dorscht added.

The blood donor clinic will be running on October 27 between 2-8 p.m. at the Lions Hall in Elmira. Dorscht will be there to thank people, and even little Ella may make an appearance (depending, of course, on her busy schedule).

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