Saving a life one unit at a time
Chris Windover, Dr. Michele Dutnall, DVM and Mary Ann St. Michael, territory manager Canadian Blood Services, were on site during the Winchester blood drive at the Joel Steele Community Centre on Thurs., March 29. Sawyer Helmer photo
Kalynn Sawyer Helmer
WINCHESTER – On Thurs., March 29, Canadian Blood Services held a blood drive in Winchester at the Joel Steele Community Centre. Dr. Michele Dutnall, DVM was the honorary guest and all blood donations were to be made in honour of her.
Dutnall is a veterinarian who lives in North Dundas. “We’ve been here since 1984. I raised my family here. I can’t go anywhere without running into someone that I know, which is good. There’s no strangers,” said Dutnall.
One year ago from the blood drive, almost to the day, Dutnall was diagnosed with stage four lymphoma. Within weeks she was undergoing chemotherapy and treatment. From May until October, Dutnall had eight rounds of chemo every three weeks and at least two transfusions every round. She estimates she received over 20 transfusions during that time.
Those transfusions prevented her from getting infections and helped her feel well. “When I do the chemo I have no ability to fight infections at all. The transfusions made a big difference in me not getting the flu, or colds and pneumonia, and having enough energy to have a life,” she said.
Due to her experience, Dutnall decided she wanted to help others and raise awareness in the community about how important donating blood can be. She explains, “During my treatment I had a lot of blood transfusions and my treatment would not have been successful without it. So I felt that it was a way for me to bring awareness to the community to something that people can never know when they are going to need it. I decided to use my name and my story to encourage people in the community to make that little extra effort to donate blood.”
With the help of her good friend Chris Windover, the pair sent out electronic flyers to 900 families, 735 paper versions to non-electronic households and also spent a day driving around the community putting flyers in public places. Mary Ann St. Michael, Canadian Blood Services territory manager, was thrilled with the reach that Dutnall has. She explained that without Dutnall’s personal community connections, the blood drive would have only been able to promote to a portion of those people. “It’s really neat in these small communities how many people will come to help out. It’s very special,” said St. Michael.
There are about six blood drives at the community centre throughout the year. St. Michael said she was hoping for about 120 units of blood this round. The process takes roughly an hour with the needle actually taking blood for only six to 10 minutes of that. Once the blood is collected it goes to the lab for testing to ensure it is safe. St. Michael explained it is then separated into three components: red blood cells, plasma and platelets. The platelets only have a lifespan of five to seven days and would therefore likely be used Easter Weekend.
The community really showed up for the drive, both to give blood and to show their support for Dutnall. St. Michael told The Record in a follow-up email that the drive saw 128 donors come to the clinic and 25 were first time donors. At the end of the day 98 units of blood were collected.
Despite her diagnosis, Dutnall said she is doing well and feeling fine. She continues to enjoy her life, going for walks, riding her horse and travelling. While she no longer works at the veterinary clinic, she said she will always be a vet. “It’s who I am,” she said.
Dutnall continues to make an impact in the community and felt the blood drive to be special for a couple reasons. “I think people can see that their donation might be helping someone they know and it helps the organization reach a bigger audience. It’s another voice asking for people to donate.” Windover explained, “People often ask what they can do, and Michele suggested this. Blood did so much for her during her chemo.”
Whether at a nearby blood drive or the next rounds in Winchester Dutnall’s message is, “Donate blood when you can. Don’t be squeamish or chicken because you’re afraid of needles. Someday you might need those needles. Someday you or someone that you love is going to need that blood.”