July 15th, 2024

Summer blood and plasma donations drop despite need rising

By Justin Sibbet - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on June 26, 2024.

Herald File photo - Canadian Blood Services says fewer donors book appointments during the warm weather months, creating a shortage even beyond normal.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDjsibbet@lethbridgeherald.com

As the sun shines and outdoor activities become commonplace, accidents tend to occur more frequently, resulting in blood donations becoming more important.

However, Canadian Blood Services says fewer donors book appointments during the warm weather months, creating a shortage even beyond normal.

Brenna Scott, business development manager with Canadian Blood Services in Lethbridge, says vacations, camping and overall routine changes cause people to stop considering donating blood.

“Donating, often, isn’t at the top of mind, but that need for blood and plasma is constant and year-round,” said Scott.

For some, it may seem unnecessary, but for Megan Johnson, the gift of blood from donors quite literally saved her life.

“I went in to go have our fourth child (at the Taber hospital) and I had completely bled out, I had a complete placental abruption,” said Johnson. “I had an emergency C-section and we actually lost our son. I received 17 transfusions in total with plasma as well and that saved my life.”

She says this changed her perception of blood donation, encouraging her to become a donor herself. However, due to her prior transfusions, she says she was unable to donate for long.

“I actually got a job working for Canadian Blood Services… because I wasn’t able to donate. I thought giving back and watching people walk through the doors and roll up their sleeves and give, not knowing that what they’re doing actually makes a difference,” said Johnson. “I wouldn’t be here today without people doing what they did.”

She says the need for blood is not clear until you’re body is severely lacking it and you become aware and thankful for those who gave you more to keep you alive.

“I lost my son and I’m lucky to be here because people gave unselfishly. It made me more aware of the need,” said Johnson. “Obviously, you don’t think that you ever need something like that but then it’s there or somebody you know goes through it.”

Johnson says donating enables you to help somebody, despite it only taking a little bit of time out of your day.

“You can change somebody’s life in the blink of an eye,” said Johnson. “For me, 17 transfusions and plasma donations, if people hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be here, my kids wouldn’t have a mom.”

Furthermore, she says she has a fear of needles, but it is no excuse to ignore the life-saving call that is donating blood.

“I very much believe that if you can help, or at least try and help somebody, then you have to do it, no matter what the fear is,” said Johnson. “I know everybody kind of has misconceptions about it as well… people would come in and say, ‘you’re reusing the equipment’. No, everything is brand new, nothing is reused. It looks like a scary big needle but I would say it hurts less than what it does when going and getting blood taken (for a lab test).”

Scott says donating blood or plasma is something a lot of people can do, yet few ever take up the call.

“One in two are eligible to donate blood or plasma, but only one in 81 actually do,” said Scott. “A lot of (people) we talk to say the reason they don’t donate is because no one asked them to. So, this is me, from Canadian Blood Services, asking you to come in and donate.”

She says there are currently over 400 vacancies over the next month and each appointment takes just a short amount of time.

“If you look at your schedule and realize you have an hour to spare, you can book an appointment on the “Give Blood” app, by calling 1-888-2-DONATE or just coming to the centre in-person and we would love to book that appointment.”

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