To Natalie Smith, turning negatives into positives is quite literally a lifesaving necessity. As she says, “I would have had no way of keeping my daughter alive if it weren’t for Canadian Blood Services and the kindness of people.”

Natalie’s daughter is five-year-old Madison Kirk. You may recognize their faces: they have been featured in our national advertising to recruit blood donors and Natalie has appeared at several Honouring our Lifeblood donor recognition events as a recipient speaker.

Madison was born with congenital heart disease. At the age of three months, she received her first blood transfusion and other blood products while undergoing an operation to install a shunt. By eight months, she weighed 13 pounds. The open heart surgery she required left her on life support. During her subsequent four-and-a-half-month stay in hospital, she received more than 40 blood transfusions and needed platelets and plasma.

“Every time I see a bag of blood, I wonder who made that donation,” says Natalie. “Without all of those bags of blood and all the people getting it to the patients, I would have no hope. It doesn’t matter how smart Madison’s doctor is, it doesn’t matter how fancy the hospital equipment is, they can’t fabricate blood.”

Today, Madison is an “old soul,” according to her mother. She loves pretending to shop and drive to run errands. She adores singing and dancing. And like any child her age, she loves to go to the park. But her physical abilities are limited due to her lack of strength.

“The best thing a parent can do for a child who lives through an illness that makes them sick their entire lives is to create some type of positive that comes out of so much negative,” says Natalie when explaining her and her family’s partnership with Canadian Blood Services. “But if you stand up and roar against it and create awareness and togetherness and make things happen, then there’s a purpose behind it and that’s so important to us.”

Photography by Lorella Zanetti