Blood - The Gift of Life - Dec 13

World War 2 was the beginning of banking blood in
Canada. At that time 2.5 million bottles of blood were
collected. As a result many soldiers and war victims were
Canada established a national blood transfusion service
in 1947. By 1958 the operating costs of the blood
transfusion process was subsidized by the government.
Sixteen blood centres had been established by 1961,
providing service to every region of the country. In the mid
60’s, the production of plastic bags replaced the use of
sterile bottles and the practice of transfusing blood
components rather than whole blood began.
The process by which blood has been collected has
changed over the past 60 years, but one thing has remained
the same: people’s desire to help others in need. Today
over 900,000 units of blood are collected each year in
Canada outside of Quebec. Héma-Québec, which runs the
province’s blood system, collected 252,340 units of blood
from donors in 2011- 2012.
While 54% of Canadians are eligible to donate blood
only 3.5% actually do. Up to 3 lives can be saved with one
donation of blood because whole blood donation is
separated into red cells, platelets and plasma. White blood
cells are not transfused to the patient as they often carry
viruses and bacteria even though their role is to protect the
body from illness.
 Red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues and
remove carbon dioxide through the lungs; they are
used for accident victims as well as surgical patients
and those who suffer with anemia.
 Platelets role is to help blood clot; can be used to help
control/stop bleeding and treat cancer patients.
 Plasma contains proteins which help fight infection, as
well as calcium and magnesium which assist in
clotting; used to treat burns or shock.
The most common blood type in Canada is O positive
although all blood types are always needed. O negative
blood types are universal donors as people with all blood
types can receive O negative blood.
Sources: Canadian blood services, Héma- Québec and
How much blood does it take to save a life?
Hip replacement surgery
(2 units)
Aplastic Anemia
(4 units/month)
Cancer treatment
(5 units)
Cardiovascular surgery
(5 units)
Internal bleeding
(2 to 8 units)
(8 units a week)
Auto accident
(50 units)
(units represent an average)
The amount of blood collected during donation is 1 pint
or 450 mls. From start to finish the process usually takes
less than an hour, including determining eligibility, 5 to 15
minutes for the actual donation and 5 to 10 minutes of rest
after the donation. Our bodies replace the blood donated
and donors may give again in 56 days or every 2 months.
The minimum age to donate is 17; minimum weight is 110
pounds. It is important to be well hydrated and to have
eaten well before donating. While most people feel fine after
donating blood, it is suggested to avoid strenuous activity for
6 – 8 hours. Controllers may return to work 24 hours after
donating blood.
A list of criteria must be met to be eligible to donate
blood. Some reasons why people are not eligible to donate
include recent dental treatment, surgeries, medications, new
piercings or tattooing or suffering with a cold, flu or sore
throat. Hemoglobin, blood pressure and temperature are
checked during the screening process. A written and oral
questionnaire regarding general health, travel history and
activities that could pose a risk are explored before eligibility
is determined. These questions are conducted in a private
and confidential setting with a trained nurse.
Some choose not to participate in blood transfusions
over religious grounds. As a result “bloodless surgeries”
have been developed and have shown favourable
outcomes, leading the medical community to further
examine of the safety and benefits of blood transfusions.
Whatever your opinion, this “liquid organ transplant” is
still a much needed resource, offering life for those in need.
This Christmas season, when it is truly more blessed to give
than receive, why not give the “gift of life” by becoming a
donor. Canadian Blood services offers regular blood donor
clinics as well as a variety of programs to promote donor
participation. For more information and a clinic near you go