7 things you probably don't know about donating blood

Jul 15 2021, 3:31 pm

Sometimes, we can feel powerless when it comes to helping those in need.

After all, what could we possibly do to help remedy the illness or ailment of another? How could we ever impact whether or not someone gets to come home from the hospital?

Surprisingly, super-human abilities aren’t a requisite for doing any of the above; all it takes is an hour or so of your time — and a sample of your blood.

If that last part sounds scary, you’re not alone. There are tons of myths surrounding donating blood, which is why we consulted Stephanie Pedersen, the territory manager of Canadian Blood Services in Vancouver, about people’s biggest misconceptions.

According to Pedersen, summers are often a difficult time for blood collection. “While summer is always a difficult time due to folks making vacation plans, school being out of session, and a general increase in outdoor activities, this summer has been even more difficult,” she tells us.

As things begin to reopen across the country, many hospitals are able to resume regular procedures that were placed on hold during the pandemic. This means patients across Vancouver (and Canada) “need our help right now — and in the weeks and months ahead,” says Pedersen.

If you still have any lingering misconceptions as to why you (and your friends) should get to the blood bank this summer, consider the following facts a form of gentle encouragement.

Donating blood is one of the most direct ways to help someone

From blood to plasma, platelets, stem cells, and tissues, every donation makes a difference for those who are awaiting major surgeries, medical procedures, cancer treatments, and coping with other illnesses.

Whether it’s helping a child who is undergoing cancer treatment or a mother who has just given birth, donating has an immense ripple effect on patients and their loved ones. “Donating blood is one of the most direct ways you can help someone,” says Pedersen. “It helps save lives.”

Demand is rising


Though the number of donations tends to sink during the summer months, the need for blood doesn’t take a vacation.

In fact, the demand for blood is growing across Canada as we begin our slow (but steady) progression towards normalcy. Currently, there are over 2,000 donation appointments available in July in Vancouver alone.

Blood types can matter

While there’s demand for all blood types, certain types are in higher demand than others. According to Pedersen, “O-negative blood donors are especially needed because this blood type can be transfused to any patient. In times of emergency and for newborn patients, O-negative blood, the universal blood type, makes a lifesaving difference.”

If you’re not sure what your blood type is, donating can actually be a great way to find out. Within six to eight weeks of your first donation, you’ll receive a donor card that allows you to access your account at blood.ca or via the Give Blood app where your blood type will be listed.

Blood only has a shelf life of 42 days

Dusan Petkovic/Shutterstock

Every 60 seconds someone in Canada requires a blood transfusion — and since it only has a shelf life of 42 days, it’s a supply that constantly needs to be replenished.

And since Canada relies entirely on the generosity of donors to keep this lifeline going, giving back is a serious act of community service.

Surprising health benefits

Did you know donating blood comes with some unexpected health benefits?

On top of the proven health benefits associated with performing charitable acts — like increased happiness improved immunity — giving blood also stimulates the creation of new blood cells, which is crucial in maintaining your health and wellbeing.

Quick and painless

Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock

Despite common misconceptions, donating blood is a relatively speedy process. Overall, you can count on it only taking around an hour of your time. When you consider that this small time sacrifice might allow for someone to enjoy their summer at home (instead of the hospital), it’s a worthwhile exchange.

“It takes about an hour, from the moment you walk in to when you get juice and cookies — though the actual blood giving time is only about eight to 15 minutes,” offers Pedersen.

In addition to it not taking a lot of time, it also doesn’t hurt. Most people describe it as being a painless, “quick pinch” experience.

While appointments are needed to maintain social distancing measures, same-day appointments are available if you prefer to drop by on the fly.

You’re likely eligible

“We often hear folks tell us they’re scared to donate or that they think they aren’t eligible to do it,” says Pedersen. “Our eligibility criteria is constantly changing and it’s always worth checking back.”

If you’re unsure, you can always use this helpful resource to see if you’re eligible to donate,  download the GiveBlood app available on the AppStore or GooglePlay, or call the 24-hour line: 1-888-2-DONATE (1-888-236-6283).

To book your blood donation appointment, you can visit blood.ca.

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