Up until her daughter became seriously ill, Alanea Holstrom was like a lot of us when it came to donating blood, thinking surely there are enough people out there giving that we don’t have to.
But in the past year, as her three-year-old daughter Lynnea has battled leukemia and suffered through life-saving blood transfusions, Holstrom has found out differently and is now trying to spread the word by sharing her story.
“I had always wanted to donate blood but unfortunately I never made it a priority until I saw what a difference it made in my own daughter’s life,” said Holstrom on Monday. “I was always under the assumption there was enough people donating blood. The first time I went into the blood clinic myself I was really scared to find out that less than four per cent of eligible donours actually make it out to donate blood.”
And that four per cent now consists of Holstrom and her husband, now regular blood donours after going though more than a year of anxiety and stress after young Lynnea was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, just shy of her second birthday.
Cute, shy, bubbly and in love with cupcakes, little Lynnea had ended up in the doctor’s office after a fall resulted in what doctors first thought was just a sprain. But after the injury didn’t heal and Lynnea’s pain worsened, Holstrom kept asking for another opinion. She was finally sent to see a pediatrician, who ordered blood work and nailed down the leukemia diagnosis. She was immediately flown to Children’s hospital.
“She has been in treatment for just over a year now and she has had many blood transfusions,” said Holstrom. “She had six months of intense chemotherapy and still has daily treatments with her blood levels constantly monitored. Through it all she has managed to stay really happy, really bright and full of life. She has been a trooper through this whole situation.”
Spending time at B.C. Children’s Hospital as well as other health institutions since the diagnosis has opened Holstrom’s eyes to just how many people are in need of blood transfusions.
“We have spent so much time in the B.C. Children’s Hospital and in the oncology department,” she said. “We see kids every day that would come in and need blood transfusions on a daily basis. I never realized the need.”
In Kelowna, the Canadian Blood Services clinic is open four days per week and can take 64 appointments each day. Each donation is said to be able to save as many as three lives, yet there are times, like Christmas, when the clinic is not full and has trouble filling the appointments.
“I know Christmas is a busy time for everyone but that also means it’s a bit more of a challenge for us to get people into the clinic,” said Gayle Voyer, territory manager for Canadian Blood Services. “We are open throughout the holiday season and what better gift than giving the gift of life. We ask that you spread the word to your family and friends. It only takes an hour of your time.”
For Holstrom, who drives to Kelowna from Oliver with her husband to donate blood, donating is no longer an option. They have made it part of their routine.
“It’s just so important to me,” she said. “There was somebody out there that took the time to donate blood and it saved my daughter’s life. I am forever grateful. We were at the hospital for eight months and there were families there every day with us. Donating blood is a life saving gift.”
To book an appointment to give blood today, call 1-888-236-6283 or visit blood.ca