7 Things About Donating Blood We Wish We Knew Sooner

From the importance of O-negative blood to the intricacies of stem cell donation

We learn a lot from all of our clients, but this month we want to highlight the work of an organization that we may not know a lot about, but that we all depend on.
It’s not every day we cry at a briefing (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but hearing about the unique role Canadian Blood Services plays in our lives stopped us in our tracks. Without CBS, and the contributions of people like us, we simply wouldn’t have the blood, plasma, stem cells and organ donations we need for a huge range of emergency and everyday healthcare. 

Before this partnership, we hadn’t considered that thousands of the people we know and love are here today because someone they’d never met spent an hour of their time donating blood. We think that’s pretty special. 

Here’s eight other things we didn’t know about CBS, and we wish we knew sooner:

1. Canadian Blood Services is more than just blood 

You might think of blood banks and neighbourhood blood drives when you think of Canadian Blood Services, but in reality they do so much more. CBS is Canada’s Lifeline, connecting blood, plasma, stem cell and organ/tissue donors to the people who need them. 

2. Blood transfusions aren’t just for emergencies 

Maybe it’s the result of too many hours spent watching Grey’s Anatomy and other medical dramas, but we mostly think about blood transfusion as an acute need following a big accident or injury. In reality, they're a fundamental aspect of healthcare for various conditions like anemia, and cancer. They’re also a key part of the recovery for surgery patients, during and after the event.  Blood is a part of everyday healthcare, that’s why we need donors every day. 

3. Why O-Negative blood is so important

You may have heard that O-negative blood is the universal blood type and therefore especially valuable for donation. But did you know why? 

When someone faces a severe accident or trauma, every second counts. In these critical situations, it's often impossible to determine the patient's blood type right away. One area where this is especially relevant is in the care and resuscitation of newborns, who haven’t been around long enough to assess their blood type just yet! Since O-negative blood lacks the antigens that can cause harmful immune responses in recipients, it can be safely transfused into people of any blood type. This versatility makes O-negative blood an invaluable resource in situations where time is of the essence.

4. Plasma donation is a thing (an important thing at that!) 

Okay, you’re familiar with donating whole blood, but have you ever considered donating just plasma? Plasma donations are used in a wide range of medical treatments, from helping trauma patients to those with immune disorders. The donation process takes about the same amount of time as blood donation, and you can do it more frequently than donating whole blood. 

5. Very few of the people registered will be able to donate organs

In order to donate vital organs after death, donors have to die in hospital under very specific circumstances. That means that only around 1% of those registered will be able to donate organs (though many will be able to donate tissue!). With the complexity of the donation and transplant process, the odds are stacked against organ donation being viable in many cases. That’s why it’s important that the 90% of Canadians who say they support organ donation need to register and state their intent to donate, so that people in need of a transplant have a better chance of a match! 

6. Ethnic diversity in our stem cell registry is crucial 

Stem cells are immature cells that can develop into healthy blood cells, treating conditions from blood cancers, to inherited immune conditions, to metabolic disorders. Unlike blood and plasma donation, stem cell donation only occurs once it’s been established that a potential donor on the stem cell registry is a match for a person in need. However, not everybody has an equal shot at finding a potentially life-saving stem cell match. Ethnicity and other factors play a part in donor/recipient compatibility. 

In particular, Black and South Asian people are two of the least represented ethnic groups on the stem cell registry. It's crucial to have donors from these groups on the stem cell registry to ensure the best care is available to people from these communities. Stem cell donation isn't one-size-fits-all, and diversity matters in finding the perfect match for patients in need.

7. Blood donorship levels are low- and you can do something about it

A concerning trend that started with the disruption of the pandemic is low donor turnout. When blood supply is low and unpredictable, it saps vital resources from Canadian Blood Services that could otherwise be used securing care for people in need. Now, more than ever, your contribution can make a significant difference in the lives of those who depend on blood and its products.

Our team has been lucky to work with CBS and learn firsthand how vital blood donation is. To us, donating was a no-brainer, so we’re asking you to join us in keeping Canada’s Lifeline strong. Making an appointment is easy, and donating is quick. But the impact of your donation is lasting, and may even save a life. 

If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and donate, visit blood.ca to assess your eligibility and make an appointment. 

Follow along with us on social for updates on the CBS holiday campaign and see our bold impact in action.