Do you hear the Blood Signal?
Canadian Blood Services and C.B.N. residents talk blood donation
A familiar sound on the radio in recent weeks has been the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) blood signal.
The blood supply in Canada is at critically low levels — a six-year low. The signal is to inform the general public that donors are urgently needed.
Peter MacDonald, director of donor and clinic services for CBS in Atlantic Canada, spoke with The Compass about the seriousness of the situation.
“Right now, our national inventory is at 35 per cent below what we planned for,” he said.
CBS tries to have enough blood on hand to cover demand between five and eight days for each blood group (A, B, AB and O). Nationally, it has less than three days’ supply available.
MacDonald emphasizes patient care has not been compromised, but says if the donations are not there, some hospitals will have to begin deferring elective surgeries and treatments.
“That’s a point we don’t want to get to,” MacDonald said.
Canadian Blood Services launched the blood signal campaign in 2011 as a means to get the public to recognize the need for blood.
But some of the challenges CBS faces, MacDonald said, include trying to create regular donors from casual ones and coping with noshows for booked appointments.
“Only 3.2 per cent of Canadians are regular donors,” he said “We have seen a significant growth in our no-show rate. Twenty-seven per cent of bookings are no- shows. (Some) 6,978 appointments have been missed this year.”
Bookings are also low, and donors can only donate every 56 days in order to replenish their own blood.
“In October alone, Newfoundland has almost 2,000 appointments available,” MacDonald said.
CBS has a program for high schoo l students who want to become donors. Young Blood for Life is a program that encourages donating at a young age, but the idea is to keep people donating throughout their lives.
“A lot of our donors are aging,” MacDonald said. “We need to engage that next generation of blood donors. Don’t just answer the call this time, but become a regular donor.”
CBS hosts clinics at several high schools in the province, as well as College of the North Atlantic, Memorial University and the Marine Institute.
Needing a transfusion
Carbonear’s Noelle Dove had a health scare several months ago and has completely changed her views on blood donation.
“I didn’t think by going to the hospital with what I thought was a pulled muscle would end up with a four-night stay in the hospital and three bags of blood,” she told The Compass.
Dove had never been admitted to hospital prior to this visit, and it was not a pleasant experience when she learned she would need a transfusion.
“The next morning when the nurses came in with the bags of blood, I began to feel sick to my stomach (because) I don’t like the sight of blood and I didn’t want the transfusion,” she said. “I didn’t think or feel that I needed them, but I did. The thought of someone else’s blood going into my body was pretty scary.”
Prior to her illness, Dove had given no thought to donating blood, or to those who do donate.
“I never ever thought that I would be in the situation that I would need blood transfusions,” she said.
These transfusions likely saved Dove’s life, and she appreciates the time that people put into donating. She would also like to see more people come out to donate.
“I am very grateful and thankful to the people who donate because if they didn’t, God only knows what would’ve happened to me that night,” she said.
“So please, I urge everyone that can donate to donate. You can give the best gift ever — the gift of life.”
Dove is not eligible to give blood, but encourages all others who are to give it a try.
Experienced donors vs. newcomers
Vida Porter of Port de Grave has donated blood 105 times. It is not something that she sees as a chore, spending an hour every few months sitting on a cot and giving a litre of blood.
The first time she donated, she was 16 (the age limit now is 17) and went with a friend.
Although her first donation didn’t quite go as planned, she continued to give because of what her donation meant.
“It was the best feeling, knowing you were maybe saving someone’s life,” Porter explained.
There are many reasons people cannot donate, including low hemoglobin. Porter has been struggling for a year with that issue and has been trying to increase her iron intake, hoping the next time will be successful.
Those interested in donating blood or with questions about donating are asked to call 1-888-2DONATE, visit blood.ca or download the “Give Blood” application for smartphones.