Together, we will get through this

Thanks to a reliable blood supply, Josie has a family — and she’s spent a lot of time with them as the COVID-19 pandemic brings quarantine measures to Canada.


When Josie Sirna was diagnosed at two years old with thalassemia — an inherited blood disorder that prevents the body from producing healthy red blood cells — her parents were told that she was unlikely to live past the age of 20.

Now almost 50, Josie has not only defied all expectations in terms of life expectancy, but also has a full-time career, a loving husband and three beautiful kids. The only detail that sets her seemingly normal life apart from others? The fact that she needs 117 units of blood every year just to keep living the sort of life that many of us take for granted.

Josie, like so many patients across Canada, relies on the national blood supply system to stay alive and healthy — and to keep defying expectations. So, when she heard that COVID-19 was causing many blood donors across Canada to cancel their appointments, Josie’s greatest fear was that something in that system would break down.

Thanks to the strong support of our proud partners and committed donors, Canadian Blood Services has been able to respond quickly and effectively to many of the challenges presented by COVID-19. We continued to supply hospitals with the life essentials needed by Josie and other blood recipients across the country.

Facing collection challenges

While much of the world hit pause when COVID-19 arrived in March 2020 and disrupted life as we know it, the need for blood products remained constant.

Even during these uncertain and challenging times, Canadian Blood Services has been determined to keep our promise to help every patient, match every need and serve every Canadian — however, this global pandemic has certainly brought with it many new hurdles.

Early on, we had to continually re-evaluate and implement new safety and wellness measures in our blood donor centres across the country, to help protect our staff and donors while continuing to collect and supply life essentials to patients in need.

In line with physical distancing guidance from public health authorities, we also had to temporarily suspend all cord blood collections (which have since resumed in Brampton, Edmonton and Ottawa, with Vancouver to follow at a later date) and stem cell swabbing events across the country and explore new ways to respond to the changing environment. Additionally, we had to ramp up our recruitment efforts to urge healthy eligible blood donors to book (and keep) their appointments to help prevent shortages.

Despite the unprecedented challenges we’ve had to face, however, we’ve been able to rely on generous donors like you, who have responded loudly and proudly to our calls for support.

Our proud partners: Bringing health and hope to patients

During this challenging time, I have been so touched to see our community of proud partners continue to step up to help patients in need, by rallying their employees and communities to make appointments to donate blood products, by registering to become stem cell donors, and by giving financial and in-kind gifts to help support our critical recruitment efforts.

Because of amazing supporters like you, Canadian Blood Services has been able to keep our national blood supply system strong during these uncertain times.

From supporting our increased safety and wellness measures within our collection centres, to fueling blood recruitment efforts, your commitment has been integral in helping us respond to ongoing and emerging issues presented by COVID-19.

I am also excited to share the news that thanks to the generosity of partners like you who helped support us during this difficult time, we saw a 20 per cent increase in the number of new blood donors this spring.

Thank you so much for your dedication — we couldn’t do what we do without you. Because of your generosity, we can continue providing important life essentials for patients in need — no matter what new challenges may come our way tomorrow.

Together, we are Canada’s Lifeline — and I know that together, we will get through this.

Gord Kerr is director, donor acquisition, retention and performance at Canadian Blood Services