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Partners for Life

One could argue a good health disorder to be diagnosed with is one that’s manageable and through its treatment, can help others at the same time.

Hereditary hemochromatosis fits the bill.

People living with it absorb too much iron in their body. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical to help prevent serious health problems. That includes regular phlebotomies to help patients maintain acceptable iron levels, which in turn helps patients in need of blood.

If there’s a silver lining to having hemochromatosis, that’s it, says Patrick Haney of Vancouver, who was diagnosed in early 2010.

The 36-year-old is married, a father of a 10-month-old son and was recently named a Top 40 under 40 by Business in Vancouver. His diagnosis came as a surprise following a routine test he took when applying for insurance benefits at work.

“My ferritin (protein that binds to iron) result came back off the charts with the first number in the high 9,000s,” he says, noting a normal ferritin level is around 300 nanograms per millilitre (ng/mL) or less.

Although it took several months before doctors could identify Patrick’s problem, when they did he decided to be the quarterback of his own health to ensure he lived well with it and stayed on top of treatments.

“If you get an early diagnosis you can totally manage the iron in your body through blood donations,” he says.

In that regard, he sees “a hand in glove relationship” between people with hereditary hemochromatosis and the needs of blood banks across Canada.

Shortly after he was diagnosed Patrick started volunteering with the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society. In 2012 he became the group’s president.

“I was looking for a volunteer opportunity, had a personal connection to the disease and the organization is headquartered in Richmond. It was one of those instances when the pieces fit together in kind of an ‘ironic’ way, no pun intended.”

He’s teamed up with Bob Rogers, the society’s president to combat the disorder, increase awareness and get more individuals suffering the effects of iron overload into care.

“I hope more people with hereditary hemochromatosis identify themselves to Canadian Blood Services,” says Patrick.

“Functionally, once a phlebotomy regimen has been established with a medical professional, we have no issue with donating blood based on the disorder. We offer a great potential source of new blood donors.”

For more information and support, visit the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society website at www.toomuchiron.ca.

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