Students provide an infusion of young blood

Andrew Robinson
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Nicholas Wiseman, a Level 3 student at Exploits Valley High in Grand Falls-Windsor, made his first donation at the Canadian Blood Services blood donor clinic on Lincoln Road last month, with the assistance of nurse Cathy Ellsworth. He was one of many students from the school recruited to donate blood by biology teacher Dave Noel. — File photo by Sue Hickey/Transcontinental Media

Teaching biology at Exploits Valley High in Grand Falls-Windsor, there always comes a point where Dave Noel would teach students about the circulatory system and the vital importance of blood.

Believing he could have a positive influence on his students, Noel has encouraged them over the last two years to donate blood as part of Canadian Blood Services’ Young Blood for Life program.

In 2010, more than 37,000 teenagers donated blood at Canadian Blood Services donor clinics, accounting for nine per cent of all  donors.

The Young Blood for Life program focuses on recruiting students to donate. While the number of people donating at Exploits Valley High may not be at the same level as in larger schools across Canada, Canadian Blood Services said its participation rate is among the best in the country.

“If you get them in and start them early, they’ll be lifelong donors,” said Noel.

A donor must be at least 17 years old to give blood.

Noel, who’s from Grand Falls-Windsor, has been a regular blood donor for years — his next donation will be his 40th. He was teaching at a college 15 years ago when he made his first donation, egged on by his students, most of whom were older than Noel at the time.

“They dared me, and I dared them. We all went down and donated.”

In his seven years of teaching at Exploits Valley High, Noel said, he has always emphasized the importance of giving blood, and when he heard of the Young Blood for Life program, he knew it was something his students could become involved in.

“Today, we have a peer recruiting group within the school of four students, and they do the posters for me,” he said.

Whenever someone donates for the first time, he makes a point of coming along to take a picture (he regrets missing one such case for the first time last week), which he later puts on the wall in his classroom.

“I’m always there taking a picture and walking them through it —sit with them, make sure they’re comfortable and (help) take their mind off it,” said Noel, who is careful to emphasize that the needle only pinches the skin and does not hurt.

“A mosquito bite hurts more,” he says, although he also encourages students to talk with other classmates, as a sales pitch from a peer can do wonders.

“Their stories count.”

Good kids

Teenagers are sometimes thought of in a negative light, Noel said, but he believes pursuits such as this show teens in a positive light.

“If you could come in and see the wall and the good these teenagers do, it is quite impressive.”

Noel said the program has really taken off at the school. He estimates  50-60 have made donations in the last two years and says there will be more donors in years to come.

Students who are 16 have approached him at school and said they look forward to turning 17 so they can donate as well.

When he comes across stories in newspapers about people requiring regular blood transfusions, he often clips them to share with students, as he finds they respond strongly to the human element of donating blood.

“These issues hit home with the students. The students want to fit in somewhere and want something to be a part of. They’re not all athletic or musically inclined, and with ease they can be a hero. Just roll up the sleeve and take an hour out of your schedule every month or two.”

Last month, Noel was in Ottawa to receive a national peer recruiter award from Canadian Blood Services for his efforts in encouraging young people to donate blood.

“It was kind of humbling, actually,” said Noel. “You do this for all the other reasons — because it’s good and the right thing to do.”

Leo Burke Academy in nearby Bishop’s Falls also takes part in the Young Blood for Life program, and Noel hopes to eventually find advocates at Botwood Collegiate.

Twitter: TeleAndrew

The Telegram is encouraging readers to donate blood as part of its annual The Telegram Saves Lives blood drive campaign. The blood drive will take place from Oct. 24-28. Check The Telegram every day next week for more stories on donating blood.

Organizations: Canadian Blood Services, Young Blood for Life, Exploits Valley High Leo Burke Academy

Geographic location: Grand Falls-Windsor, Canada, Ottawa

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