‘Blood donors saved my child’ said Okanagan woman

For as many times Hazel Bennett donated blood, she never considered that it could one day save her child’s life.

  • Jun. 17, 2016 5:00 p.m.

Hazel Bennett gets prepped to donate blood by phlebotomist Lacey Giene on Monday at the Drop In Centre at the Canadian Blood Clinic blood drive. Bennett shared the importance of donating blood with her story of her daughter needing blood transfusions.

Marshall Chapman

Western News Intern

For as many times Hazel Bennett donated blood, she never considered that it could one day save her child’s life.

“I watched each time as those rosy red bags of blood were pumped into my extremely ill daughter and I felt a sense of completeness, almost a full circle if you will,” said Bennett. “Having had spent all those times reclined and needled, giving that life-saving elixir to other people’s kids, parents, wives and husbands.”

In 2012 her daughter, Julie, a student at the University of Alberta, called her distraught. She had been feeling lousy and flu-ish for days. Bennett tried to bolster her spirits reminding her she would be visiting in a week. By the next morning Julie had taken an ambulance to the hospital, but doctors didn’t feel she needed to be admitted.

Getting concerned Hazel rushed to Kelowna to catch the first flight, arriving in Edmonton at 11 p.m. to find her daughter, who was normally strong and healthy, very weak and ill. They waited out the night through Julie’s pain and by morning she could not move her legs. She was showing symptoms of something more serious and was rushed back to the hospital.

“Things started happening fast. Her organs were shutting down,” said Hazel.

They gave Julie steroids to prevent her system from shutting down and tested for everything. Her lungs could not supply her with enough air and she was placed on oxygen and intubated

“At some point on day two, I asked the ICU nurse straight out, ‘should I be getting her father and sister here?’,” recalled Hazel. “‘Yes’ she replied. ‘She might not make it.’”

After six moths in intensive care, the trachea tube was removed and she could have food again. Julie had many days of rehab to walk and breathe properly again and spent a total of three months in the hospital. The only thing she tested positive for was the common cold-flu strain.

“That flu, that one in a million times will cause a young person’s body and immune system to shut down. That silly old flu bug that nearly killed my daughter,” said Hazel.

Over the time spent in intensive care, Julie was given six blood transfusions. Now 27 years old, Julie’s lungs are still not 100 per cent recovered. She recently created and produced a theatre and movement piece portraying her hospital experience entitled Scars are Healing Wrong. But, she is still alive.

“Doctors, nurses and blood donors saved my child,” said Hazel.

Having surpassed the 50 donations mark herself, Hazel has become the poster child for reasons to give. She shared her story on Monday in Penticton at the South Main Drop In Centre during a blood donor clinic to mark the first day of National Blood Donor week.

Gayle Voyer, the territory manager of Canadian Blood Services said they need about 2,000 new donors in the Okanagan region between now and the end of December.

“The need for blood is constant because blood has an expiration date,” she said, adding it is 42 days.

She said some of the barriers that hold people back from becoming donors is they don’t know if they are eligible and think it is a long process to go through. Voyer said finding out is as simple as going to the website blood.ca and answering a short questionnaire. She is encouraging everyone 17 years or older to go to the website to see if they are eligible and to book an appointment.

“Hearing people like Hazel helps people go ‘wow, you know she didn’t think it was going to happen to her and it did and here’s how blood helped save her daughter,” said Voyer. “These stories are the reason we do the work we do.”

The next blood donor clinic takes place at the South Main Drop in Centre on July 13.


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