Runner and active mom from Surrey, BC, celebrates the blood donors who saved her life

After three uneventful pregnancies, Gurjinder Bhurji never imagined she would need dozens of units of blood and plasma to survive the delivery of her fourth child.

Pavan S. Bhurji’s arrival on September 5, 2000, came with a rare and severe obstetric complication called placenta accreta. The medical condition caused major bleeding when caregivers tried to remove the placenta.

Gurjinder was in surgery for nine hours. She required a full hysterectomy and the removal of her ovaries. She received dozens of units of blood and plasma to help save her life and remained in critical condition for four days in the intensive care unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey, BC.

Gurjinder Bhurji survived to raise her children and compete in half-marathons because of blood donation

“Once my son was born, I saw him and kind of just fainted because all of my blood was draining out,” she recalled.

“When they realized how severe it was, they weren’t sure if I was going to make it. They had no idea what was going to happen, but I would not be here today if not for all those people who donated their blood.”

Nearly 20 years later, Gurjinder remains grateful. National Blood Donor Week and World Blood Donor Day in June are an annual reminder of the help she received and a chance to share her story broadly to inspire others.

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Gurjinder Bhurji, seen here with her son, Pavan S. Bhurji, required several transfusions of blood and plasma following Pavan’s birth in 2000.

New life, new perspective

The difficult birth led to a shift in Gurjinder’s perspective and behaviour.

“The health scare when my son was born changed my view of life. It taught me to live one day at a time, manage my health and focus on what is important, like my kids and family,” she said.

After she recovered from surgery, Gurjinder was motivated to take better care of herself, get fit and adopt a more positive focus.

She’d always been somewhat active, but after she recovered from surgery she set out to become a runner. She started with walking, moved on to running, and 20 years later remains committed to those activities and more.

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Gurjinder Bhurji enjoys good health and an active lifestyle 20 years after blood donations saved her life. Now she advocates for blood donation to help other patients.

Encouraging runners to donate blood

Before the pandemic, Gurjinder had planned to stage her first annual “Run Surrey Run” event on June 7, featuring 10-kilometre and five-kilometre races. As a long-time Surrey resident and successful realtor, she’d hoped to bring local people and businesses together to promote health and fitness while supporting local charities. The event had taken more than two years to organize and she was expecting 2,000 participants to attend.

COVID-19 forced Gurjinder to make the difficult decision to postpone the inaugural event until next year. For now, she’s shifted her attention to celebrating and thanking blood donors for their lifesaving gifts to hospital patients. She has been encouraging those who registered for the race to donate blood instead.

“I’m the kind of person who leads by example and hopes to motivate others to change their lives in a positive way,” said Gurjinder, who grew up in Surrey and also raised her four children there with her husband.

“Health should be a priority to everyone, no matter what age. A healthy body and a healthy mind work side by side. If neither are healthy then neither are happy,” she added.