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Alberta’s emergency crews compete to boost blood donations across province

It’s a different kind of Battle of Alberta. First responders across the province are rolling up their sleeves in a friendly competition to see who can encourage the most people to donate blood this month.

It’s part of the annual Sirens for Life campaign, which kicked off for the 22nd year Wednesday morning. In Calgary, the goal is to bring in more than 500 new donors and collect more than 5,400 blood and plasma donations in January.

Police, firefighters, EMS and other first responders in Calgary are competing with their counterparts in Edmonton and Red Deer.

“We were the winners last year, and we’re hoping to be the winners again this year,” said Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

“But the more important message is that January’s a really tough month for blood donations because a lot of people are away, a lot of people get sick, there’s weather issues, and so [Canadian Blood Services] sees a lot of appointments being cancelled.”

Man in EMS uniform gets blood drawn
Alberta EMS director Lorin Calder gets his blood drawn to help kick off Sirens for Life 2024. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Lisa Castro, community development manager with Canadian Blood Services, says the need for blood is constant — and while the need hasn’t increased, donor behaviour has shifted.

“This January, we have 3,800 appointments here in Calgary alone that are still waiting to be filled.… We’re really just encouraging donors to take the time to donate blood. Book your appointment today and really help us make a difference in the lives of patients in need,” said Castro.

According to Canadian Blood Services, roughly one in two people are eligible to donate blood and plasma, but only one in 81 actually do.

Carol Henke, public information officer with the Calgary Fire Department, gives blood as regularly as she can.

She says she was injured in a motorcycle collision 36 years ago and needed two blood transfusions. Now, as a firefighter, she sees the need for blood on a daily basis.

“It’s just so needed, and for everyone who can step up and provide that gift, it’s amazing. It can make the difference between life and death for someone.”

That’s also why Adam Loria with Alberta EMS donates. But also for the competition, too.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge as it always is, but I think we’re going to be able to do it. But again, it’s really the recipients who are the real winners.”

The campaign runs until Jan. 31.

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