Emerg Services Bolster Blood Supply

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 1:17 p.m. August 11, 2014

In the last year, 54 Division Constable Tom Sirbos has really grasped the significance of blood donations.

Three men in uniform with another two men talking in a semi-circle
Deputy Fire Chief Mike McCoy, Roop Sidhu of Canadian Blood Services, Constable Tom Sirbos, Deputy Chief Mark Saunders and EMS Deputy Chief Frank Hurlehey emphasized the importance of blood donations at Sirens For Life media conference

His seven-year-old niece – Samantha Sirbos – was recently released from hospital after a 10-month stay and a successful bone marrow transplant.

Diagnosed with leukemia at age three, and a cancer survivor two years later, the little girl – whose father Constable Chris Sirbos is attached to 13 Division -- relapsed last September when the leukemia returned.

“After chemotherapy and radiation and a bone transplant, she’s finally at home,” said Tom Sirbos. “Things are looking good and we are hoping to spend as much quality time with her. I can now fully appreciate the need to donate blood. It not only helped my niece but also a number of children who are still in hospital right now and it gives them an opportunity to keep fighting for their own lives.”

Sirbos provided the update at the “Sirens for Life” summer blood donor drive news conference at Toronto Police headquarters on August 11.

For the past 12 years, Service members have joined Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in a friendly competition to determine which organization can come up with the most donations to replenish theCanadian Blood Services (CBS) inventory.

A man and woman with two girls being held by the man
Chris and Maria Sirbos, with their daughters Ava (left) and Samantha

Had it not been for a double platelet transfusion he received four years ago, Deputy Chief Mark Saunders might not be alive today.

The life-saving procedure opened his eyes to the important work the non-profit organization does in managing blood supplies and inspired him to encourage other officers to increase their donations.

“If it wasn’t for programs like this, I probably wouldn’t be here myself,” he said. “I had an issue with platelets and I can tell you that these programs do work and save lives. It’s important that we do this, not only to donate, but also to make the awareness factor that people become aware that this is something truly important and that it is a voluntary program.

“As first responders, we come across many scenes where, without these programs, the loss of life would be significantly higher… We are very low on “O” negative and if you have that charitable heart, as most Torontonians do have, please assist and donate that type. It only takes seconds for the loss of life and if the right tools are not there, including blood, then we could have fatal outcomes.”

Deputy Fire Chief Mike McCoy and EMS Deputy Chief Frank Hurlehey also attended the press conference.

“We fully support the donor drive as it gives Toronto firefighters an additional opportunity to help people in their time of need,” said McCoy. “…Firefighters personally see nearly every day the immediate need for blood. Just one person who is seriously injured from an industrial accident, a car accident or other mishaps, often need blood donations and often times, it’s more than one donor that makes a difference to these people.”

Hurlehey reiterated that blood is a gift of life for many patients.

“This is why, each year, we support the “Sirens for Life” campaign in Toronto,” he added. “This is an important program and it keeps donations high during the summer months when regular donors are on vacation. The need for blood donations doesn’t take a vacation and we hope you support the program as we do. We look at this as a friendly competition between our services and one that can keep the interest of donating blood high.”

This year’s “Sirens for Life” campaign runs from July 1 to August 31.

CBS territory manager Roop Sidhu said the campaign is doing well with over 1,000 units of blood collected so far.

“Since the inception of this campaign, over 20,000 units of blood have been collected from emergency staff in central and southern Ontario,” he pointed out. “This is just amazing when you think of how many lives they have saved in addition to their day-to-day activities.”

Sidhu said that summer months are challenging when it comes to collecting blood.

“I have recently seen our national inventory slide to a five-year low,” he added. “In fact, over the summer, we need about 30,000 blood donation opportunities across the country in order to keep up with demand. Many people can’t donate over the summer due to vacations or whatever reason and we see an increase in our no-show rate as well. But demand stays fairly constant with something like a motor vehicle accident requiring up to 50 units of blood if it involves trauma… It’s surprising that in Toronto, we actually use more blood than we donate.”

Officers interested in taking part in the challenge can go to  Blood.ca, call 1-888-2-DONATE (1-888-236-6283) or make an appointment at any blood clinic.

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