Nfld. & Labrador

Muslim donors fill need for St. John's blood clinic over Christmas break

When the majority of donors take Christmas holidays, shortages happen. So the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador stepped in to help.

Holiday season a tough time for Canadian Blood Services

Gord Skiffington and Abdelsalam Abugharara teamed up to make sure the Canada Blood Services clinic in St. John's had enough blood this Christmas season. (CBC)

Blood clinics take no days off — so when a lot of donors are taking Christmas holidays, life-threatening shortages can happen.

In St. John's, the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador stepped in to help.

Abdelsalam Abugharara, a volunteer imam at the local mosque, organized a blood drive with 20 people on Boxing Day — one of the most vulnerable times of the year for Canadian Blood Services.

"The Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador wanted to fill in shortages and bridge gaps and work very positively with the other communities when they are busy with their holidays," Abugharara said, adding the idea was about "supporting one another and bringing happiness to people in hospitals."

We will make it a national blood donation day throughout Canada.- Abdelsalam Abugharara

Gord Skiffington, a manager for Canadian Blood Services in St. John's, said it was a remarkable gesture.

The clinic wouldn't have had any donations on Boxing Day if not for the association's efforts.

"It was just incredible. It was amazing," he said. "We need all blood types every day of the year, and certain times of the year it's a little more challenging."

At any given time, the province has a 3-5 day supply of blood on hand, making shortages in donations for days at a time especially challenging.

Open on Christmas Day to meet constant needs

There are dedicated donors in the city, but most were tied up with the holidays throughout December — spending time with families, shopping or travelling.

The period between Christmas Day and New Year's Day is the most precarious, Skiffington said.

"The need for blood doesn't take a holiday," he said. "Children at the Janeway still need regular blood products as a result of chemo treatments. Accident victims still need blood products. That need doesn't stop."

To match the needs of those patients, blood clinics around the country stay open 365 days a year. The St. John's donation centre was even open on Christmas Day.

Canadian Blood Services sees a lull around the holiday season, despite being open 365 days a year. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press)

Abugharara volunteered with Canadian Blood Services while he was studying at Memorial University. He said his efforts are inspired by sections of the Qur'an, including one that states saving a life is equal to saving all of humanity.

Another tough day for the St. John's clinic is Regatta Day in August, when the city shuts down for a day of boat races.

The Muslim Association also stepped in to fill that void this year.

Abugharara said they will make the Regatta Day blood drive an annual event in the province, and are hoping to go even further with the Boxing Day drive.

"We will make it a national blood donation day throughout Canada, sponsored by the Muslim communities all over Canada."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador