Blood donors in high demand in St. John’s

Laura Howells
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The Canadian Blood Services in St. John’s needs 1,400 more donations before the end of August in order to meet hospital demand.

Blood donations have been low this summer. In June, national blood inventory was the lowest it had been in five years.

“Our summer months are always challenging as it is. People are taking vacations, there’s great weather, so they’re putting blood donation on the back burner,” said Dana Meadus, territory manager at the Canadian Blood Services. “We’ve seen improvement, but we’re just not where we want to be right now.”

Meadus said this summer, the clinic’s no-show rate has been especially high. Usually, 16 per cent of donors do not show up for their appointments; this summer, that number has increased to 27 per cent.

“I really think it’s the weather. We’ve waited so long for good weather and once we’ve got it, people want to help, they just put it on the back burner. They say ‘I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll do that another day,’ things like that, and then they don’t get around to doing it,” said Meadus.

From door to door, donating blood takes approximately one hour. The needle is only in your arm for five to seven minutes. People can give blood every 56 days.

However, Meadus said that instead of relying on a few donors donating many times a year, they want to increase the donor base so that more people are donating one or two times a year.

This week it was Julia Maidens’ 180th time giving blood. After giving whole blood donations for years, she switched to blood plasma donations four years ago. Now, she gives blood plasma every two weeks.

“I enjoy coming and talking with the girls and visiting with people. I lived on the mainland all my life, and I just started donating back then because it was something to do. And now I’ve always done it,” said Maidens. “There’s so much information out there. I don’t know why people aren’t more willing.”

Unlike whole blood donations, blood plasma can be donated every week. The blood is run through a centrifuge that removes the plasma before returning red blood cells to the body. The process takes about 15 minutes longer than whole blood donation. Blood type AB is the universal plasma donor and is particularly in demand.

Nick Skirka, 21, has been giving blood since he was 17. He thinks people may be unaware of how easy giving blood can be.

“I used to think it’d be a big deal to give blood, like you’d be out of commission for the whole day, but I do it before work,” he said. “It’s not really a big deal. It’s not bad and you get to eat whatever you want after.

“My guy friends are kind of scared. They won’t admit it, but I know they’re scared of needles and that’s why they won’t really come.”

The donated blood quickly goes to use. Victims of a car accident could need the help of up to 50 donors; a leukemia patient could need the help of eight donors a week.

“It’s only a little prick. When you know that a hospital patient is going to receive your blood and it’s going to help save somebody’s life, that’s huge,” said Meadus. “I find when people come through our doors and see what it’s all about, they find it’s a great atmosphere and they feel like they’re going to have a direct impact on saving someone’s life. Our red blood cells have a shelf life of 42 days. It’s transfused within five.”

To book an appointment, you can visit www.blood.ca or call 1-888-2-DONATE.

 

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Organizations: Canadian Blood Services

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