When floods caused by heavy rains devastated areas around Abbotsford, not far from her parents’ home in Langley last November, Olympic gold medal rower Andrea Proske was looking for ways to help after seeing an appeal.
“As soon as I saw that post, I went and booked my appointment,” said Proske, who moved to Central Saanich in January. “And within an hour, I was at my appointment, donating (blood).”
It was her first donation since winning gold as part of Canada’s women’s coxed eight rowing team last July in Tokyo. The 35 year old made her second donation Monday (Feb. 28) at Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre and she hopes to inspire others to follow suit.
Donating blood is a family tradition for Proske, who began the selfless practise as a teenager, following the example set by her father. “My competitive edge actually started with Canadian (Blood Services), going with my father, having races to see who would donate faster,” she said. “Of course, you have no control over that.”
Her father has made well over 150 donations, Proske said.
“He is a landed immigrant (from Germany) and it was his way of giving back to the community … and establishing roots in Canada. He is a cancer survivor as well, so he wanted to give back to the system that gave him so much. It passed along to us and we are trying to carry on his legacy.”
The ‘we’ in this case includes Proske’s brother, who also has been donating blood platelets and plasma, no matter the circumstances.
Proske’s recent donations come after having been unable to donate for a better part of eight years while training, with the odd occasion such as March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced an unexpected and unwanted training interruption.
Many years ago, she used the occasion of a long weekend to donate blood while training.
“And I sucked on Monday,” she said, recalling the episode. “I was awful. I wasn’t fast. My coach said, ‘what is going on?’ I said I donated blood. And we found out that in order to do the amount and volume I was training, it took my body longer to recover. So as a result, I wasn’t able to donate for almost the entirety of my training, so we are talking about eight years.”
This said, others have helped her out.
“My fiance, who is deathly afraid of needles, stepped up and has been donating for me on my behalf (since 2016),” she said.
As Proske told Canadian Blood Services in a recent interview, her blood donations are part of a broader philosophy aiming for small, but constant improvement on the way to excellence.
“Donating blood, or donating my time, or being part of contributing back to a community makes me a better person,” she said in the interview. “It makes me more connected and it makes me feel like I have contributed to something outside my career. I’ve contributed to something bigger. And that’s a lot of the reason why I do it.”
For more information about donating blood, visit blood.ca.
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