It’s a family ritual that has extended over six decades.
When Yvonne Ohara was just four years old, she accompanied her late father, Charles Overton, to Canadian Blood Services (CBS) for his regular blood donations.
He made 99 donations before his age prohibited him for continuing.
Ohara picked up from where he left off once she turned 21.
That was in in 1969. Ever since, she has been a regular donor.
On September 15, Ohara reached a landmark achievement with her 800th donation.
“Blood, as far as I am concerned, is the ultimate renewable resource,” she said. “I started out giving whole blood which was every 56 days, then I went to plasma which was once a week. With this extraction machine, it takes one bag of plasma and one bag of platelets, so you can come every two weeks.
Her blood is extracted and spun inside a centrifuge to separate the platelets and plasma before an anti-coagulant is added to the remainder of the blood that’s returned to her veins.
Ohara spent 12 years with Parking Enforcement’s disabled liaison unit before being assigned to Guns and Gangs for three years. She went back to Parking Enforcement for a brief stint before going to 52 Division.
Plasma is the protein-rich liquid of the blood that helps another blood component circulate through the body. It also supports the immune system and promotes the control of excessive bleeding. Platelets, which help blood clots, are mostly provided to trauma, burn and leukemia victims.
A trained palliative care and thanatology nurse, Ohara knows blood saves lives.
“One donation of whole blood can save up to three lives,” she said. “Plasma and platelets are targeted donations that go to a specific individual for the most part. If there is someone with burns or cancer or something of that nature, they check all the components in your blood and they make it as close as possible, specific to the person who is going to receive it. The more people you could help, the better.”
Ohara said there is no timeline on when she will stop making donations.
“I will continue to give as long as I can,” she added. “If you are a regular donor, there’s no age limit. As long as your doctor say you are good to go, you are good to go. I will continue to come down here and be the big drip.”
Ontario Director of Donor Relations Michael Betel said Ohara is one of the very few Torontonians to achieve the 800th platelet donation mark.
“Platelets are vital components that help make blood clot,” he said. “One of the most common uses for platelets is to treat cancer patients.”