A local man’s memory is being honoured through a blood donation campaign called ‘Giving Holiday Miracles’.
At the age of three, Joshua Hurlburt was diagnosed with Chronic Granulomatous Disease (CGD), a chronic, life-threatening, genetic blood disease which often requires a stem cell transplant. He had more than 80 blood transfusions through his 27 years of life. Refusing to be defined by the disease, his family said he lived life to the fullest.
After two stem cell transplants and a life filled with accomplishments, he lost his battle to CGD on April 5, 2010.
Earlier this week, Canadian Blood Services officials announced they have partnered with the family to honour Hurlburt and celebrate what would have been his 30th birthday (on Dec. 1) through an Honour Clinic to provide holiday miracles for local patients in need of blood products.
“We thought that this is one way of celebrating him and remembering him,” said Joshua’s mother Jan Hurlburt, adding that a similar initiative was held last year as well.
It’s vital to get the word out about the importance of donating blood, as the Hurlburts saw firsthand during Joshua’s many years of treatment.
His family also said Joshua’s legacy lives on in many ways, including through an award-winning documentary called Wolves Unleashed. The film has recently been considered for numerous awards, including his nomination for Best Assistant Editor.
Doctors had told his parents early on that he likely wouldn’t live to see his 24th birthday. “He was aware of that, but he lived life amazingly.” He attended Bible school in Hawaii as part of Youth With A Mission and spent three months involved in ministry in Morocco. He later attended Red Deer College to study motion picture arts.
Jan said she tries to encourage people to sign up as donors, and telling the story of what her son went through adds a strong personal touch. “I just talked to a young man today and told him about my son. When you connect a face to the reality it helps.”
Meanwhile, this year, Canadian Blood Services estimates it will need to collect 98,000 blood donations nationally and 960 locally between now and Dec. 31 to help meet hospital needs. “That’s our goal, but hopefully we can beat it,” said Kaelyn Smith, community development coordinator with the local branch of Canadian Blood Services.
“You have to be at least 17 and weigh 110 pounds; no piercing or tattoos within the past six months. If you’ve traveled outside of Canada to a tropical destination within the last year it’s best to call ahead,” she said. “If you are on a certain medication, the best thing to do as well is to call ahead and make sure it’s okay.”
Smith said the Honour Clinic is a wonderful way to pay tribute to Joshua. And its impact has gone beyond the month of December. “Last year, Josh’s mom made her first donation and I believe today is her sixth. So they’ve kept it going which is really great.”
Eligible donors can give blood every 56 days. Smith said the local office has a mobile component as well – heading out to nearby communities to take donations.
“We try to make it as convenient as we can,” she said. “We try to make it a comfortable experience. Also, if you are looking for a New Year’s resolution, this is a great one to have.”
As Smith said, aside from fluctuations in donations through the year, the need for blood remains constant. It’s particularly challenging during the Christmas season when folks get busy with holiday preparations and get out of their routines.
Smith said it only takes about an hour to drop by, be screened and make a donation.
“That one hour can have such an amazing impact,” she added.
Meanwhile, the launch of the Honour Clinic on Monday also turned out to be a significant success. “Our target for a Monday is 32 blood donations, and with the help of the Hurlburt family we collected 42 units of blood,” she said. “That’s enough blood to help eight patients receive their weekly cancer treatment.”
Ultimately, it’s about increasing awareness about the need – often the public doesn’t understand the unrelenting demand for blood that so many are dependent on.
“One in two people are eligible to donate blood in Canada,” she said. “But only one in 60 do. That’s like four per cent of the population that are regular donors supporting 100 per cent of the need. We need new donors or we are going to burn out the ones that we do have.”
For more information, check out www.blood.ca. Staff at the local clinic can be reached by calling 403-755-4336.