Blood; it's in you to give (if you can get an appointment)

By Katie Neustaeter
September 9, 2018 - 5:00am
Image Credit: CFJC Today

THIS RECOUNTING of a conversation I had earlier this week is condensed and therefore not verbatim, but it’s pretty darn close:

*K — me

*VNL — Very Nice Lady


*phone rings*

K: “Hello?”

VNL: “Hi, I’m calling on behalf of Canadian Blood Services. Because of events over the long weekend our need for blood is URGENT and you have given in the past. Would you be willing to give blood at the clinic coming to your city early next week?”

K: “Yes! I’m available any time on Monday or I can come in after 4:30pm on Tuesday!”

VNL: “I have an appointment at 4:25 on Monday?”

K: “I’ll take it! My husband always gives too, can we possibly schedule him in at the same time so we can come together?”

VNL: “No, no we don’t have any other availability. Actually, that one on Monday is gone now too. Unfortunately we’re only doing it from 1-6pm.”

K: “Oh… ok... what do you have after 4:30pm on Tuesday?”

VNL: “Nothing. I can get you in at 2:15 though?”

K: “I am working then. I would ask my employer for time off or use my lunch, but in my experience it often takes hours, so that won’t work for me. Anything else?”

VNL: “No... but we have another clinic happening on October 8th and that’s another long weekend, so the need will be urgent again! Can I book you in for that?”

K: “What? I thought the need was urgent now? And that’s Thanksgiving Monday; I’m not available on Thanksgiving Monday, sorry. But, honestly, is anyone?”

VNL: “Uh no, not really…”

*VNL and K simultaneously make a noise that might be called laughter but is much too nervous, sardonic and incredulous to sincerely be called so.

K: “Can you put me on a cancellation list for this Monday?”

VNL: “Yes, I can do that! People do cancel sometimes, so maybe we can get you in?”

K: “Great! And can I book a time for the clinic in October just in case I don’t get in this Monday?”

VNL: “Oh no, we can’t do that. You’re on Monday’s cancellation list now, so I can’t book you another appointment.”

K: “...okay …so, yeah okay. So there were only two viable options for the whole clinic and if I don’t get a call on Monday, then I have to go through this process again and probably won’t get in next time either? Even though I’m willing to give and there’s an urgent need?”

VNL: “Unfortunately that’s just how the system works. But yes, the need is urgent.”


I have a child who has undergone many surgeries, including a very extensive open-heart. He has had more blood transfusions than I have cared to keep count of and has needed more bags of blood than seems humanly possible, and each one saved his precious and precarious life.

I have literally seen his heart beating inside of his open chest while watching the blood of strangers course through his body, keeping him on this side of heaven where I stood waiting and begging that God exchange my life for his if it came to that.

So believe me when I say that no one feels more strongly about blood donation than I do; they are not exaggerating when they say that you are giving life when you give blood.

But the frustrations I have experienced when attempting to give blood are many and constant: very limited hours, five-plus hours of waiting even with an appointment, conflicting disqualifying information between the website and the clinic, misinformation about when clinics are happening, trivial technicalities that prevent donation and, more than anything else, a bogged down system that makes it incredibly difficult to even get in the chair to donate.

My experiences and frustrations with the system echo those of many others, including people who have stopped donating because of it, or the hundreds (thousands?) of people in Northern BC who can’t donate because their clinics have been discontinued altogether.

I do not say any of this to deter you from giving blood, but rather to beg two things of you:

  1. Do not give up on giving life. No matter how absurd the process is, it still saves lives every single day. Many times it has been my child's life that hung in the balance, but tomorrow it could be someone you love; someone who you would not only wait five hours in line to save, but who you would also gladly lay down your life for. And no matter who it is or how long it takes, when you receive the email a few weeks after donating saying that the blood you gave is on its way to save a life you never think, “That wasn’t worth it”.
  2. Please start demanding that Canadian Blood Services do better. The process is unnecessarily frustrating, illogical and unpredictable. My entire world has repeatedly pivoted on the amount of blood available in a crisis and I have still felt tempted to stop donating because the process is so discouraging. Canadian Blood Services must do better. It is not enough to bleat that there is a shortage of blood; they must also make it possible for people to give by fixing their broken procedures.

It simply does not have be this hard to give blood. Nevertheless please, please keep giving it anyway and insist that the system change so that others can, too.

P.S. The day after that phone call I received an email removing my name from the Cancellation List. Apparently Monday is too close to the last time I gave blood and I can’t donate again yet anyway, but that wasn’t checked before I was called.