The need for blood hit home very suddenly for this donor

Days before Amanda Kirby-Sheppard’s latest appointment to give blood, her grandfather was rushed to hospital — and received multiple blood transfusions.

June 29, 2022
Blood donor in chair with sign shaped like lightbulb that says “I let my light shine today. Now it’s your turn.”

After an exposure to COVID-19 forced Amanda Kirby-Sheppard to re-book a blood donation appointment recently, she was excited to be scheduled during National Blood Donor Week instead. But an episode in her own family was an even more powerful motivator to show up.

Amanda’s appointment was just a few days away when her grandfather, Henry Marchand, received a frightening phone call from his family doctor.

“She said to him, ‘I just got blood work back, and you have to be taken to the hospital right now,” Amanda says.

An emergency that required blood transfusions

The tests had revealed dangerously low levels of hemoglobin, the iron-rich protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen to our organs and tissues and removes carbon dioxide. At the hospital, Henry’s blood pressure was also extremely low. While the medical team searched for the cause, he received three units of blood.

It was the second time this year that Henry, 87, had needed blood. In January, he received blood transfusions because of some internal bleeding.

“He almost died in the emergency department,” says Amanda. “The doctor was saying we might want to say goodbye now, because they didn’t know if he would make it through the night.”

Fortunately, blood donors helped restore Henry to health after both frightening episodes — and made Amanda all the more determined to keep doing the same for others.

We need 100,000 new donors to join Canada’s Lifeline this year. You can help by making an appointment to donate blood or plasma. Using the GiveBlood app? Just click “take a selfie” to inspire others on social media. Don’t forget to tag @canadaslifeline!

White-haired man in suit with bowtie and corsage sitting at an outdoor wedding
Henry Marchand, who has received multiple blood transfusions, inspires his granddaughter to continue donating blood.

A committed blood donor’s journey

Amanda made her first blood donation 16 years ago, shortly after she joined Canadian Blood Services as an employee. She also encouraged family and friends to join Canada’s Lifeline.

“I recruited my husband back when he was my boyfriend, and whoever else I could get to come in!” she says. “My parents, his parents. On Christmas Eve, when I was working in the donor centre in the morning, we would all come in and donate. It became our little Christmas tradition.”

Amanda has since changed careers and employers but has continued to donate blood. Her blood type is O-negative, which is shared by only seven per cent of people in Canada. It’s a type that is also critical in emergencies.

blood bag icon

Why is O-negative blood important?

Every person’s red blood cells are coated with antigens, a combination of sugar and protein molecules that determine blood type. Because O-negative blood lacks certain antigens, it can be safely transfused to anyone, making it critical in emergencies. Yet only seven per cent of people in Canada have this blood type. Learn more about the constant need for O-negative blood donors.

Amanda also continues to educate others about the need for blood.

“I have so many random blood donor facts in my brain from doing presentations for so many years,” she says with a laugh. “I have no outlet for them now, so I might as well share the information on social media!”

That includes information about the unique role of blood and blood donors within the health care system.

“People don't think about there being no substitute for blood. People don't know that it has a shelf life,” she says. “I try to encourage people and make them aware of blood donation.”

Bride holding bouquet with her grandfather and grandmother outdoors
Henry Marchand, centre, seen here with his granddaughter Amanda Kirby-Sheppard, left, and his late wife Donna Marchand, has received multiple blood transfusions. Donna also received blood products before she passed away.

Blood donors save and improve lives

Amanda’s entire family is so grateful for her grandfather’s recovery and the blood donors who have helped him.

“I haven't seen him looking this good in ages. He’s just so full of life!” she says.

Her family jokes that the blood transfusions “filled up his tanks.”

“The difference in him from the week before he received the transfusions is incredible. And there was no other treatment option for him,” says Amanda. “Without blood, he probably would have died, and he’s going to need ongoing blood transfusions for the rest of his life.”

Do you have a story to share about giving or receiving blood, plasma or platelets? Consider sharing it to inspire others. Together, we are Canada’s Lifeline.

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