One of the complications kids with cancer face is often the need for blood transfusions. For children this can be a frightening experience on top of what they face by having cancer. At McMaster Children’s Hospital Kids undergoing treatment for cancer or other diseases get a bravery bead for every procedure they receive, with different coloured beads representing different types of treatment. Each red bravery bead represents one blood transfusion. What is needed now is more blood donors.

In February, Canadian Blood Services and McMaster Children’s Hospital are partnering on a bravery bead campaign that encourages new donors in our Hamilton and Burlington clinics to sign a bravery bead for children battling cancer or another blood disorder. Each signed red bravery bead will be given to a child who receives a blood transfusion as part of their treatment.

Michelle Bisaillon knows all too well about bravery beads. As a former McMaster Children’s Hospital patient, Michelle collected over 140 red beads. They are among over 400 bravery beads which make up three necklaces that Michelle has collected during her battle with leukemia. Three-year-old Liam Gibson and his family also know first-hand about the importance of blood. In 2011 at McMaster Children’s Hospital, Liam was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, where malignant tumours formed in the muscles and soft tissue of his legs, chest and abdomen. Liam underwent surgeries and aggressive chemotherapy as part of his treatment and he continues to be a patient at the hospital.

“When I talk to people about donating blood, some shy away,” says Denise Saulnier, community development coordinator for Canadian Blood Services. “They tell us that they’re nervous or that they don’t like needles. But I ask people to think about the brave children who don’t have a choice and go through many procedures as part of their treatment. They will need donated blood. So this February, we’re asking people who have never donated before to be brave too. Book an appointment to donate and help someone who really needs it.”

“We call them bravery beads because they tell the story of the journey these children go through during their treatment, often with little complaint, sometimes even with a smile,” says McMaster Children’s Hospital pediatric oncologist Dr. Carol Portwine. “Blood transfusions truly are life-saving for many of them.”

The demand for blood and blood products will continue to grow and to meet Canada’s future blood needs we must encourage more Canadians to become regular blood donors now. Every 60 seconds, someone in Canada needs blood, and it often takes more than one blood donation to save the life of a patient. For more information about the blood donation or to book an appointment, call 1 888 2 DONATE (1 888 236-6283) or go online at

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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