WINNIPEG – A man’s desire to help others by donating blood may have saved his own life.
Doug Bedford started donating blood when he was a student at the University of Winnipeg in the mid 1970s.
“I have no doubt that blood transfusions save lives so it’s a worthy thing to do and it’s only a modest amount of my time,” Bedford said.
In 2006, Bedford was diagnosed with hereditary hemochromatosis, a genetic disease that affects the body’s ability to absorb iron. Over time the excess iron can cause serious complications.
One of the ways doctors manage the disease is by getting patients to regularly get rid of blood.
READ MORE: 5 things to know about donating blood
Since Bedford was giving so much blood to benefit others, he had actually been helping himself.
“I wasn’t donating blood because I thought it was helping me, but I thought I was helping fellow citizens,” Bedford said.
“As it turns out I was arguably preserving my own life as well as helping others.”
The Canadian Hemochromatosis Society said the disease can cause cancer, heart failure, diabetes, among other conditions.
Dr. Brent Schacter, a hematologist, calls hereditary hemochromatosis a silent disease.
“There are no symptoms, and that’s the horrible part of this disease. There are no symptoms until a patient has developed complications,” Schacter said.
“The complications of this disease can certainly be fatal.”
Over the course of 40 years, Bedford has donated blood 139 times.
Tracy Smith, the associate director of Canadian Blood Services for the prairie region, said donors like Bedford are crucial.
“We’re just thankful for donors like Doug that come in and inspire people,” said Smith.
“You’re saving someone’s life and it’s really just one small poke of a needle in order to help someone.”
The Canadian Blood Services changed the eligibility requirements in December. For women, they now are limited to donating every 12 weeks.
Men can still donate every eight weeks if their iron levels are healthy.
That means regular donors can give less frequently and the organization is feeling the pinch.
“That’s why we’re trying to ask for some people to come in and donate that haven’t donated before to help fill that gap,” Smith said.
From now until the end of March, Canadian Blood Services needs to fill 9,000 appointments in Manitoba.
(image from Global News)