This is Part 1 in a series about donating blood and Canadian Blood Services
Canadian Blood Services will never have enough donated blood. There is always a need for more.
This is something that CBS can’t stress enough.
Whether there’s a sudden and unexpected drop in donations, or CBS is at its “normal” number of donations, its message is always the same: the demand for blood is constant.
“There’s never going to be enough blood because it can expire. The sooner we can use the blood, the better,” says Marcelo Dominguez, communications specialist with CBS.
This week (June 10-16) is National Blood Donor Week. In hopes of increasing B.C.’s donations of 500-600 units of blood a day — plus increasing other provinces’ donations — CBS has activated its ‘Blood Signal’.
It’s kind of like the Bat-Signal. When you see the Blood Signal, that means CBS is summoning you, and they need you to come to the rescue. It means it’s time to donate blood now, and help save lives.
The summer months are some of the slowest months for blood donations, as many people are away on vacation.
Although some regular donors put a pause on donating for a few months, or even several years, others donate every eight weeks like clockwork.
On May 27, Ross Yaxley donated for the 100th time. His first donation was at the age of 17.
“Believe it or not, I did it to get out of school. Back then we got the afternoon off school to donate,” he says.
He donates because “it’s a very good cause,” and because he has nieces who have needed blood in the past. Yaxley is also a retired paid-on-call firefighter, and since there has always been a friendly competition between him and his fellow firefighters, he was frequently encouraged by his pals at Hall No. 2 to donate.
Yaxley wasn’t the only one at the May 27 blood clinic with an impressive number of donations. Ed Froese made his 97th donation that day.
Froese also made his first donation in high school, around 1981. He was inspired by his father and late uncle who both donated.
“They made it very clear that it was a good and honourable thing to do. We all looked up to my uncle. He died young,” says Froese.
Why does he donate?
“I think it’s something that anyone in good health can do,” says Froese. “If you’re okay with needles, I don’t see any reason why not to donate, because people need it.”
Bob Buhler is at a whopping 128 donations.
“My number is irrelevant. It’s just a number,” he says. “The donation that’s the most important is the second one because you’ve made a choice to come back.”
Donating blood for the first time is easy — it’s getting the donor to return and donate for a second time that’s more challenging, says Buhler. So any time he meets a person who’s donating for the second time, Buhler always makes a conscious choice to congratulate them for coming back and donating again.
The approximate time it takes to be screened, answer questions, and then donate blood, is about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.
First, your iron is tested with a small finger-prick test. Second, you are asked to fill out a written questionnaire. Third, you’re asked a set of verbal questions which are more personal than the questionnaire. Lastly is the blood donation itself.
The actual ‘giving of blood’ takes about 10 minutes. Men usually donate faster than women.
“It used to take me two-and-a-half minutes to donate. Now it takes me four- to four-and-a-half minutes,” says Yaxley.
Over the years, CBS has added or changed questions on its questionnaire numerous times to stay up to date with any health concerns or viral outbreaks, such as West Nile Virus.
Because of the bureaucratic changes, “sometimes you wonder if it’s worth it (to donate), but the answer is always ‘yes’,” says Buhler.
“I’ve always felt physically better after giving blood. I don’t know if it’s a psychological thing, like out with the old and in with the new,” says Yaxley.
Even though 50 per cent of Canadians are eligible to donate, only four per cent of those eligible actually do.
“No matter who can’t donate, anyone in this country can get blood. Anyone,” says Dominguez.
Glenda Standeven is one of those recipients.
She lost her leg due to cancer in 1988. She received four units of blood during one surgery. During her second surgery, she received 12 units — that’s an entire human body’s worth of blood.
“If that blood wouldn’t have been available, I would have died,” she says. “I am forever grateful to those donors for taking the time to donate.”
Standeven used to be a donor herself, before her leg was amputated.
“If you are able to, don’t let fear stop you. It doesn’t hurt to donate,” she says.
“The life you’re saving down the road, you don’t know who that might be, and it’s pretty amazing to be able to safe a life,” she says.
Facts and tips on donating blood:
• to make an appointment to donate blood, call 1-888-2-DONATE• you must be at least 17 years of age, and healthy, to donate• you must weight at least 110 lbs.• underage teens (17 and 18) do not need their parents’ permission to donate• special medical assessment conditions apply to those over the age of 70, and those 61 and older who are donating for the first time• one unit of whole blood (red cells, platelets, and plasma) is taken during a blood donation, and is equal to about 450ml• adults have about 10-12 units of blood in their body, that’s five to six litres• every minute, on average, a person in Canada needs blood• 50 percent of Canadians are eligible to donate blood; only four percent of those eligible actually donate• 52 per cent of Canadians say they, or a family member, have needed blood or blood products, or know someone who has• before donating, people should drink plenty of water, and avoid coffee and tea — caffeine can shrink veins, therefore making it difficult and/or uncomfortable to donate blood• after donating, people should rest for about 6-8 hours and avoid strenuous activities• people should not donate during their lunch break, as there simply isn’t enough time• you must wait to donate if: you have been to the dentist recently; have a cold or flu; had a tattoo or body piercing within the past six months
Related column:June 11 – Blood drive honours Penny Lett