SUDBURY – Advances in medical technology and procedures has led to a sea change in the nation’s blood and plasma requirements. It seems almost counterintuitive that the highly successful mobile blood donor clinics once held in Little Current, Espanola and then even the permanent site in Sudbury were shut down, leaving the only blood donor clinic still operating in the North located in Parry Sound, but there is a sound reason behind those decisions.
The Expositor caught up with Teri-Mai Armstrong, business development manager at Canadian Blood Services plasma operations to discover more about what is happening in the industry.
“In the past there would be a lot of blood loss during surgery,” said Ms. Armstrong. “Now, with so many surgeries being conducted laparascopically there is very little loss of blood—that changed the demand.” While there is still a significant demand for blood, the demand for plasma has far outstripped the nation’s ability to supply that demand. “Only 14 percent of the need for plasma is met by national donations,” she said, with the shortfall having to be made up from purchases outside the country.
Canadian Blood Services is responsible for supplying blood and plasma to 700 hospitals across Canada and the demand for plasma has outstripped supply across much of the globe.
The good news is that, while an individual’s ability to donate blood is very limited, once every 56 days for men and once every 84 days for women, men are able to donate plasma once every six days and women every 12 days.
The key difference is that in plasma donations, a person’s red blood cells are taken from the body and placed in a centrifuge to remove the plasma and then returned to that individual’s system—putting much less strain on their blood system to replenish itself.
Sudbury was the first location to be converted to a plasma donation centre as a pilot project and it has proven to be so successful that another was opened in Lethbridge and a third in Kelowna just three weeks ago. “The government is now approving eight new sites,” said Ms. Armstrong.
That’s good news, she notes, because if the pandemic has shown us anything it is the importance of having home-grown sources of vital medical supplies. “We need to be self-sufficient,” said Ms. Armstrong.
That’s a sentiment strongly shared by Manitoulin Masonic blood donor chair Roy Eaton, who has also expanded his recruitment efforts to enlist the District H3 Royal Canadian Legions with two trophies up for grabs to add a bit of competitive spirit. “It’s been pretty successful,” said Mr. Eaton, “but the need is still great.”
Ms. Armstrong noted that the plasma centre sees a lot of Islanders coming in to provide donations, which is a very good thing because, since the centre opened in the midst of the pandemic, a whole new set of challenges appeared to place roadblocks to donations.
“Summer is a time of very high demand,” confirmed Ms. Armstrong.
Setting up an appointment to donate plasma is relatively simple—log online to blood.ca and follow the instructions, or call 1-888-ToDonate (1-888-236-6283) to set things up. Summer is the perfect time to give the Gift of Life.