‘Every time I see a bag of blood, I see a person behind it’

May 31, 2024
Blood recipient wearing pink jacket holding binoculars

Wai Yin Mok is grateful to each and every blood donor helping her survive and thrive with a mysterious illness

Wai Yin Mok may never fully understand why her body stopped retaining enough healthy red blood cells. But she’s living an active life in spite of this mystery illness, powered by the blood transfusions she receives every few weeks.   

Since 2017, Wai Yin estimates she’s received over 250 units of blood. Her blood donors could be her neighbours in Toronto, or they could live across the country. They could be young people, or retirees her age.   

Whoever they are, Wai Yin has a message of thanks for them.   

“Your donation has a huge impact on the life and quality of life of many people,” she says. “You might not know that people are thinking of you. But when I receive blood, every time I see a bag of blood, I see a person behind it. And I do say a little prayer of blessing for your family.” 

Blood recipient looking through binoculars
Hundreds of blood donors over the years have made it possible for Wai Yin Mok to pursue her many retirement passions, including bird-watching.  

A blood recipient’s mission to share ‘positive energy’ with others  

Wai Yin first shared her story with Canadian Blood Services in 2021. Though she’d already been receiving transfusions for years by then, doctors were still struggling to diagnose her. And every few weeks, by the time of her scheduled transfusion, she was so weak she needed to book para-transit to get to her appointment.  

Unfortunately, the mystery continues, even after analysis of Wai Yin’s bone marrow turned up two gene mutations. One is linked to a rare inherited type of hemolytic anemia, a disorder that causes red blood cells to be destroyed faster than they are made. But Wai Yin’s case appears to be different from the others discovered so far.  

With no findings that point to a cure, doctors have continued to treat the symptoms. Thankfully, tweaks to that treatment, such as her regular iron infusions, have boosted her energy as well as reduced her overall need for blood. She now gets to her transfusion appointments by subway, and fills the days in between with activities such as hiking, bird-watching, outings to the ballet and opera, travel, and her newest passion: playing bridge.  

“I picked up this new hobby only about four or five months ago,” she says. “I can say I’m getting addicted to it, that’s how much I like it!”  

She’s combined that new passion with what she calls her biggest pleasure in retirement: helping others. At a retirement community where she volunteers every Tuesday, she’s teaching a resident with speech and hearing difficulties how to play the game, drawing on skills from her long career as an educator.   

She also makes time to visit friends who are housebound because of mobility challenges or dementia.  

“With the positive energy and the sense of well-being that I have, I want to pass this on to other people,” says Wai Yin. “I have other people’s healthy blood that makes me healthy, and I’m enjoying life, so I just want to share that joy of living with others.”  

Blood recipient demonstrating how to play bridge
Wai Yin Mok’s most recent retirement passion is playing bridge.

‘Before blood transfusion became standard, people like me would be gone’  

Before receiving blood herself, Wai Yin readily admits blood donation wasn’t really on her radar. But now, she generously supports Canada’s Lifeline through regular financial gifts. Donations like hers help fuel research and innovation, as well as efforts to recruit donors of all kinds for patients who need blood, plasma, stem cells or organs and tissues.  

She’s also formed a team through our Partners For Life program. It’s a fun way to bring people together to donate blood or plasma, set goals and track progress. The first year, her goal for the team was 23 blood donations — a target in honour of KIF23, the name of one of the genes where doctors discovered she has a mutation.   

Thrilled to exceed that first goal, she set the next year’s target at 123, “because 1-2-3 is get set, go!” she explains. She’s also started sending annual letters to team members, thanking them for their contributions, explaining the next goal and encouraging them to help the team reach it.  

For her next target, Wai Yin has already decided to honour a team member and friend who has organized a lakeshore cleanup for decades. After he recruited 198 volunteers for his most recent effort, Wai Yin decided to aim for 198 blood donations. It’s a way to recognize his service while also supporting patients — people across Canada, with needs as critical as her own.   

“Before blood transfusion became a standard, common intervention, people like me would be gone already,” she says. “I’m very much aware of it.”  

Thank you to all the recipients who have shared their stories with us for National Blood Donor Week 2024. Visit blood.ca/NBDW to read more stories and join our celebration of donors.


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