Tanya Roche (right), with her grandmother Helen Kunz, who died in 2019. In honour of her grandma, Roche, a rare O-negative blood type, donates blood every October. (Contributed)

Tanya Roche (right), with her grandmother Helen Kunz, who died in 2019. In honour of her grandma, Roche, a rare O-negative blood type, donates blood every October. (Contributed)

Revelstoke woman makes Okanagan trip to donate blood in honour of grandma

Vernon blood donation marks third time giving rare O-negative blood type

When her grandmother was ill in the hospital, Tanya Roche overheard the nurses talk about the blood she needed.

Grandma Helena Kunz was O-negative, a rare blood type that only seven per cent of Canadians have. The unique type also meant Kunz could only receive O-negative blood. With bleeding disorders at the end of her life, Kunz received several blood transfusions at her hometown Kelowna General Hospital.

Roche shares her grandma’s blood type. So after Kunz died in 2019 at the age of 94, it was an easy decision for the Revelstoke woman to give blood and help others with the rare type.

Kunz will make her third donation Saturday, Oct. 23 in Vernon, in honour of her grandma.

“My motto is always ‘it’s in you to give!’. It is relatively painless, takes very little time and sure gives you a sense of self-worth knowing that you can save a life… for free,” Roche said. “Most people do not think they can give but it’s an easy questionnaire to rule it out, or in.”

The matriarch of the large family, Kunz birthed 11 children, raised 10 of them (one died at birth), had 25 grandchildren and 37 great grandchildren. Her death was a huge loss for her tight knit and loving family.

Along with their matching blood type, Roche shares the same birthday as her grandma. Born on Kunz’ 52nd birthday, the two shared a special bond. Kunz was also Roche’s godmother.

Roche has over 100 relatives just on her mother’s side and now encourages family and friends to donate blood as a birthday gift. She knows members of her family may also share her universal blood type. In this way, Roche is helping to honour Helen and ensure there is enough O-negative on hand for patients when it’s needed.

A blood donation clinic is coming to Vernon’s Priest Valley Arena Oct. 23 and there are still openings for those who would like to give. To book visit blood.ca or call 1-888-2-DONATE (36-6283). Blood clinics also take place at Trinity United Church in December and at Armstrong’s St. Joseph’s Church in January. There are no blood donation clinics in Revelstoke, which is why Roche comes to Vernon to give.

READ MORE: Blood donors needed in Vernon, Armstrong, everywhere

READ MORE: Blood donations are rebounding from COVID, but there remains a need for more


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Tanya Roche (right), with her grandmother Helen Kunz, who died in 2019. In honour of her grandma, Roche, a rare O-negative blood type, donates blood every October. (Contributed)

Tanya Roche (right), with her grandmother Helen Kunz, who died in 2019. In honour of her grandma, Roche, a rare O-negative blood type, donates blood every October. (Contributed)