Alberta Blue Cross® is proud to work with Canadian Blood Services through its Partners for Life program. We consider our employees and members of our Partners for Life team to be true heroes. They regularly take time out of their busy schedules to donate blood and make a lifesaving difference to those in need. From cancer patients and transplant recipients to accident victims, someone in Canada needs blood every 60 seconds.
We recently asked our Partners for Life members to share their personal stories and experiences with us. Before you read their inspiring answers below, take a moment to meet some of the heroes at Alberta Blue Cross.
- Marie-Christine Allers, business analyst and regular blood donor for the past three years.
- Brian Geislinger, vice-president of Corporate Relations and blood donor for more than 20 years—he’s donated well over 100 times!
- Debbie Roshuk, team manager and blood donor for more than five years.
- John Hidber, team manager and blood donor for 30 years.
- Katelyn Pretzlaff, communications officer and blood donor for more than five years.
- Kurt George, independent contractor and blood donor for more than 15 years, who just celebrated his 50th donation—congrats, Kurt!
What or who inspired you to donate blood for the first time?
“My professor in college donated plasma every 10 days!” – John Hidber
“Honestly, to try to get over my fear of needles … LOL! It didn’t really work, but I can get through the donation, as long as I don’t look at the needle, and I always tell the nurse to pretend I’m a first timer.” – Debbie Roshuk
“I think I just initially saw it as a good way to give back to the community.” – Brian Geislinger
“I guess it was my dad. He donated blood regularly, so it became something we did together for a while.” – Marie-Christine Allers
“In 2012, I lost my boyfriend to brain cancer and his family made the selfless decision to donate his organs, which saved two people’s lives. While I’m registered as an organ donor, donating blood is something I can do now to help make a difference in someone’s life.” – Katelyn Pretzlaff
What inspired you to join our Partners for Life team?
“Internal promotion of Partners for Life is actually what got me back into to giving blood. It had been too many years (due to health, travel and pregnancies), but I realized it was a good time to start up again. And, with how convenient it was, I really had no excuse not to!” – Marie-Christine Allers
“Cookies and drinks afterwards.” – John Hidber
“I was donating anyway, so I wanted to make sure my donations were credited to our team. Plus, as the executive sponsor of the Partners for Life program, I want to ensure I’m leading by example!” – Brian Geislinger
“I loved the fact that Alberta Blue Cross participates in the program to make a larger impact and it was super easy to join.” – Katelyn Pretzlaff
Why do you continue to donate blood?
“I think it is something we all should do. We don’t miss the little amount taken, but it’s something that can save the life of someone in need.” – Kurt George
“To help someone who needs the donation, especially now that I know I can do it.” – Debbie Roshuk
“Donating blood is literally life saving. Unless you work in the health care system or become an organ donor, there are few things you can do that have this impact on helping to save lives. The fact is that someday you, or someone you know and love, will need blood. Don’t you want to do your part to make sure the blood supply is there when they need it?” – Brian Geislinger
“It’s a small thing I can do that can have a huge impact on someone’s life. Also, my friend was recently diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and had needed several blood transfusions. This made the need that much more real for me and will serve as motivation to continue donating.” – Marie-Christine Allers
What’s the blood donation process like?
“The process is all very orderly and pretty relaxed. It’s a good time to catch up on an e-book or some good old social media scrolling. And the people are all so kind!” – Marie-Christine Allers
“The process has become a bit more stringent with COVID-19, but the additional precautions are understandable as they help to ensure everyone remains safe. The process is very organized from the time you book your appointment in advance (you can’t just walk in anymore), to the assessment on your ability to donate and the actual blood donation that ends with refreshments and snacks to help replenishment.” – Kurt George
“It’s very easy. You can book your appointment online (I highly recommend downloading the GiveBlood app) and fill out your donor questionnaire in advance. It doesn’t take that long and everyone there is extremely friendly. It’s a great thing to do with a friend too.” – Katelyn Pretzlaff
“The process has evolved a lot in recent years. It’s been streamlined to make it as efficient as possible. Much of the screening is now online, and the precautions in place during the pandemic ensure that everyone is kept safe throughout the process.” – Brian Geislinger
How do you feel after you’ve donated blood?
“AWESOME!!” – Debbie Roshuk
“I feel fine, maybe a bit less energy than usual, which is why donors are asked to take it easy and get plenty of rest after donating.” – Brian Geislinger
“I fainted in the chair the first time I donated (due to not eating beforehand), but I feel no different physically afterwards. Mentally, I feel really good because I know my donation can help someone in need.” – Katelyn Pretzlaff
What would you say to someone who’s never donated blood before?
“Speak to your physician. If they approve you fit to donate, you could save a life.” – John Hidber
“Give it a try. You might find the process is a lot easier and much more painless than you thought. For those afraid of needles, just look away—it really doesn’t hurt.” – Kurt George
“If I can do it, so can you—and it’s sooooo worth it!” – Debbie Roshuk
“Be brave—you might surprise yourself! I’ve donated with many first-time donors who were initially very nervous but got through the donation process with ease. If the blood donation process gets to be too much, you can stop at any time.” – Brian Geislinger
When you mention donating blood to other people, what reactions do you get? Do you ever hear misconceptions about donating blood, or excuses for not doing so?
“Mostly, people seem afraid of the process or the needle. While I know it’s not for everyone, I encourage people to try it and to tell the staff if they’re afraid—the staff will be extra good to them and cover up their arm during the donation time.” – Marie-Christine Allers
“People are usually pretty positive about donating blood. It’s certainly not for everyone as some people have a legitimate fear of seeing blood or needles. But, if people’s only excuse for not donating is lack of time, that’s really not a legitimate reason not to donate.” – Brian Geislinger
“I’m surprised how many people have never tried it before. I understand the process can seem daunting and everyone lives busy lives, but it’s actually very easy and truly lifesaving. If you’re unable to donate blood for any reason, you can encourage others to do it if they can by sharing Canadian Blood Services posts on social media or considering donating financially.” – Katelyn Pretzlaff
What’s one piece of advice you have for first-time donors?
“Enjoy the process. Professionals are present to walk you through the process and care for you every step of the way.” – John Hidber
“Drink lots of water ahead of time and load up on snacks—calories don’t count on blood donation day!” – Marie-Christine Allers
“Top up on fluids and have a salty snack before you go. Let them know you’re a first-time donor and they’ll give you a sticker to wear—those involved in the process will provide you with a bit more attention and help you feel comfortable.” – Kurt George
“Once you’ve done it, you’ll realize its no big deal.” – Debbie Roshuk
Have you or anyone you know needed blood?
“Yes; and, while I didn’t start donating blood for this reason, my reasons for donating are now intensely personal.
In April 2008, our son Jonas was born two months premature and was immediately placed in Neonatal Intensive Care. Jonas was with us for just 27 days before he passed away, but over that time he had multiple blood transfusions, as well as blood products. We’re so thankful blood products were there for Jonas. Losing a child is brutal and life-changing and we miss Jonas every single day, but we’ll never forget that the blood products he received helped us to have those 27 precious days together.
I also have a close friend who is a biker and was in a catastrophic accident about five years ago after he was struck head-on by an individual driving a three-quarter ton truck who was making a left-hand turn while texting. He was transported to hospital by STARS and flatlined twice on the way there. He’s had more than a dozen major surgeries since his accident, requiring more than 70 units of blood.” – Brian Geislinger
You can be a hero too
Since blood lasts no longer than 42 days, Canada relies entirely on the generosity of donors to keep the lifeline going. Whether or not your organization is a member of the Partners for Life program, you have the power to be a hero and help someone in need. Book your appointment online at blood.ca, on the GiveBlood app or by calling 1-888-2-DONATE (1-888-236-6283).