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 or down­load the “Give Blood” ap­pli­ca­tion for smart­phones.

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