BY: CHARLOTTE LEFAVE
Canadians are some of the most frequent donators of blood in the world, with each person donating around twice a year to organizations like the Red Cross or the Canadian Blood Services who then send it to patients in need of a transfusion. Even with consistent donations like these, there are still blood shortages happening quite often, which means that even just one donation can be the difference between a patient living or dying.
Giving blood is actually a really easy process that usually only takes about an hour in total, including registration and blood withdrawal. Since the Red Cross and the Red Crescent operate in over 190 countries, they have bases in most cities around the world where blood donations can be performed. Just look for their trademark universal red and white symbols that allow them to easily be identified.
To find out if you are eligible to give, you can make sure you don’t have any of the conditions listed here. Some conditions like pregnancy, diabetes, or specific antibiotics make you unable to donate your blood. Blood also does not last forever, it expires after 42 days so the blood that is collected is used as soon as possible. It is also a good idea to figure out your blood type (though most centres will tell you after your donation) because other than it being a handy thing to know about yourself, if you have a rarer type like AB- or the universal blood type O- your blood is in even higher demand than most. You can do this by going to see your doctor, calculating it online by using your relatives’ blood types, or using a home test kit to pinpoint it.
The human body, depending on the size, contains around five litres of blood and between 350ml and 500ml of that blood is taken during a single donation. If you’re looking to be a consistent donator, you should wait around eight weeks between donations. There are several different types of donations: you can donate whole blood, platelets, stem cells, a Power Red (double the red blood cells in a unit), or even cord blood (blood taken from the umbilical cord of a baby after it is born), which is full of stem cells.
There is a large selection of blood disorders that can be treated with donations. Giving platelets is important for patients who have hemophilia, a disorder that lessens the clotting ability of the person due to low levels of platelets in their blood and making it easier for them to bleed out. Stem cells from donations are used to treat patients with leukemia or lymphoma to boost red blood cell production. These cells also treat other forms of cancer: aplastic anemia, thalassemia, or vasculitis. Blood transfusions are also given to victims of car accidents, high-risk births, gastric bleeding, and arterial bleeding; all of which use several units of blood per patient.
There is always a need for blood to be donated, and you only need to be over the age of 17 (or 16 with a parent’s permission) as well as meet the health requirements to save a parent, a grandmother, or someone’s little brother. Most people would agree with the moral side of giving blood, but have not really considered doing it themselves, or haven’t gotten around to it. People need you to take that step to donate your blood and help a person in need.