Edmonton man donating blood and plasma to replenish units that saved his wife

Glenn Cook's wife, Liz, needed nearly 500 units of blood in plasma to save her life. After they married he decided to become a regular blood and plasma donor as a way to 'replenish' the units she'd needed.

'Liz wouldn't be here if it weren't for Canadian Blood Services'

Glenn and Liz Cook pose for a photo as he makes his 200th donation. He aims to donate 498 units of blood in thanks for the 498 units of plasma his wife required in 2005. (Submitted by Liz Cook)

An Edmonton man is donating blood and plasma weekly to replenish the nearly 500 units that saved his wife's life.

In 2005, Liz Cook spent 28 days fighting for her life in hospital after eating a tainted hamburger.

"In my case, it led to complete renal failure," she said.

"That's when I started to receive an astonishing amount of blood product from blood services."

She received 498 units of blood in plasma while she was hospitalized. 

Years later, she met her husband Glenn Cook. He heard her story plenty of times when they were dating, so when they married in 2014 he decided to become a regular blood and plasma donor as a way to 'replenish' the nearly 500 units she used.

Glenn and Liz Cook outside the Canadian Blood Services office in Edmonton, where Glenn donates plasma about once a week. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

He's now almost halfway there — making 203 donations so far.

"Liz wouldn't be here if it weren't for Canadian Blood Services," he said. 

"We have friends who were going through cancer treatments or have had other situations in which they need blood. And it's quite possible they wouldn't be here if it weren't for Canadian Blood Services."

For Liz, who can't donate blood or plasma, her husband's determination means a lot.

"To me it is an expression of love and gratitude that I'm here, because without blood services, he'd have a totally different, less awesome wife," she said. 

2,000 empty appointments in Edmonton

Glenn Cook used to make a donation every two weeks. During the pandemic, he made sure to donate once a week.

He figured not as many people would be making the effort — and he was right. In June, Canadian Blood Services said there were 31,000 fewer donations nationally.

Glenn and Liz Cook mark his 100th donation. (Submitted by Liz Cook)

"We've been experiencing what I would say is a lapse in donors coming in and attending their appointments and booking appointments out of Edmonton," said Tracy Smith with Canadian Blood Services.

Here in Alberta, Canadian Blood Services continues to struggle with fewer donations. They're hoping more new donors sign up which Liz Cook encourages.

"It is so easy to do and you can save one or more lives just with 45 minutes of your time," she said.

Canadian Blood Services in Edmonton say they have 2,000 empty appointments between now and Labour Day.


Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi is a CBC reporter based in Edmonton. She worked in newsrooms in Toronto, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Yellowknife before joining CBC North in 2017.