At Christmas, blood donors give the best gift of all

There is no substitute for blood, which is why Canadian Blood Services (CBS) relies so heavily on its donors.

There is no substitute for blood, which is why Canadian Blood Services (CBS) relies so heavily on its donors.

Staff with the mobile unit accepted donations from residents Dec. 26 at the Kinsmen Community Centre.

Crews with CBS come to Ponoka every 56 days because it takes that long for people to replenish their blood, said Kaelyn Smith, community development co-ordinator for CBS. It can be more of a challenge to get blood during the holiday season, as most people are busy with their plans.

Their goal for donations is 115 units, each unit is approximately 500 ml and donations are sent to Edmonton for testing. It is then separated into three components: red blood cells, plasma and platelets. Smith gave a brief description of each component.

• Red blood cells are used for trauma and surgical patients and helps people with anemia; who cannot replenish enough red blood cells themselves.

• Plasma is used to treat liver diseases, cancer therapies and bleeding disorders.

• Platelets help those who have certain bleeding disorders and various forms of cancer.

“That’s why we say you could save three lives,” stated Smith.

About four per cent of Canadians are active donors and she feels it is an important thing to consider. “I think that blood donors are a special kind of person. They’re selfless.”

Clinic supervisor Marta Boulton has been coming to Ponoka for many years and sees familiar faces donating in Ponoka. “There’s a feeling of community when they come to the blood clinic.”

Boulton finds every person who donates has a specific reason. Some just want to help and some have a personal reason but no matter the purpose, it is important to donate, explained Boulton.

“This is it. If people need blood, this is the only place we can get it,” she stated.

One donor, David Panton, gave his 132nd unit. He believes it is an important decision to make. “It’s because people need blood…It’s helping. I’ve got it and they need it.”

Matt Noble gave his fourth donation of blood. He wants to keep the memory of his grandfather alive and try to beat his record of 68 donations.

For Caitlin Melin, the importance of donating was personal as her family has had some health issues and she wanted to ensure her blood is available if needed. “It’s just something that’s important to me.”

Boulton said O positive is the most common blood type in Canada and O negative is the most rare; O negative can also be used in any blood stream. “But we need it all.”

Donors would sit for five to 10 minutes while their blood was taken from a phlebotomist and were asked to wait for some time to ensure they were safe to drive.

The goal for Alberta is to collect 146,000 blood donations from April 2012 to March 2013 and the next Ponoka clinic is scheduled for Feb. 20 from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Some blood donation facts:

• Up to five donors to help someone undergoing cancer treatment.

• Up to 50 donors a week to help someone in a car accident.

• Up to eight donors a week to help someone with leukemia.

• Up to two donors help someone who needs brain surgery.

• Two to eight donors help someone with internal bleeding.

• Up to two donors a day help someone undergoing a bone marrow transplant.

• There are four main red blood cell types: A, B, AB and O. Each can be positive or negative for the Rh factor. AB positive is the universal recipient; O negative is the universal donor of red blood cells.

• Donors of all blood types are needed to help ensure patients continue to get the blood they need when they need it.

• In 2012, an estimated 186,400 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Canada; many of these cancer patients will require blood products for their treatment.

• 52 per cent of Canadians say they or a family member have needed blood or blood products for surgery or for medical treatment. (Ipsos-Reid)