A Celebration of Blood
Guest blog by Dr. David Lillicrap, Professor, Department of Pathology & Molecular Medicine
As a hematologist, of course I’m biased, but I would propose that there are many reasons to celebrate the importance and distinct nature of blood. At Queen’s, we unashamedly impart this message to our medical students through Jackie Duffin’s annual 1st year lecture entitled “Why is Blood Special?”.
On September 12th, at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, I had the privilege of attending an event that reminded me once again how special blood is. The National Honouring our Lifebloodrecognition ceremony is an annual event organized by Canadian Blood Services to celebrate the contributions of people and organizations who make our country’s blood system, stem cell network and transplant organization a national treasure. Canadian Blood Services evolved from the Krever Commission Report on the Blood System in Canada, and this year marks the 18th anniversary of this outstanding organization.
The collective altruism of the ~120 people attending this event was remarkable and humbling. The individual blood, stem cell and organ donors, donor recruitment volunteers and Canadian Blood Services staff members honoured during the evening all ensure that our volunteer blood system provides a safe and effective infrastructure for medical care in Canada. Just one example of the amazing honorees receiving awards was a gentleman from Nova Scotia who has a lifetime donation count of >1,050 units.
At this year’s Honouring Our Lifeblood event the Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences was well represented by recipients of the two foremost honours that the organization bestows; the 2016 Schilly Award for excellence in recruitment and promoting awareness of the need for blood, stem cells, or organs and tissues, and of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mackenzie Curran, a 1st year Queen’s nursing student was this year’s Schilly Award honouree. At age 16, Mackenzie was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (preleukemia) at KGH. This is a very unusual diagnosis for someone so young, and it took the combined expertise of Drs. Farmer, Good and Rauh to confirm the early evolution to acute myeloid leukemia in Mackenzie. Dr. Mariana Silva has since managed Mackenzie’s clinical care that ultimately required a stem cell transplant performed at SickKids in Toronto. The search for a stem cell donor resulted in the recruitment, in Kingston, of thousands of new donors, and eventually an unrelated donor was found who Mackenzie subsequently got to meet last year.
Following the recovery from her transplant, Mackenzie felt inspired to give back to the blood system and her goal is to replace the 1,000 blood donations she received during treatment. Over 400 units of blood have been collected to date, and 2,000 potential donors have been added to the stem cell registry. In the past month, she has already started to recruit new donors from her Queen’s student peers. Mackenzie advocates for blood and stem cell donation, appearing on television, radio and at numerous events including speaking to members of Parliament about the Canadian blood system. In short, she is an impressive young woman, and we are fortunate in recruiting her to our nursing program.
I would like to thank David for this guest blog, and also offer my congratulations. David didn’t tell you this in his blog, but he was also an award recipient at the National Honouring our Lifeblood recognition ceremony. That night, David received the Canadian Blood Services’ Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his longstanding engagements with the research portfolio of the Canadian blood system, and the Queen’s Hemostasis Group’s landmark contributions to the field of hemostasis, and to improving the lives of patients with bleeding disorders. Dr. Paula James and all members of the Queen’s Hemostasis Group should also be congratulated for their invaluable contributions, which led to this award.
Please share your thoughts by commenting on the blog, or better yet, drop by the Macklem House…my door is always open.