Student blood benefits clinics

Queen’s collected 575 pints of blood from staff and students last year

Queen’s students collected the third highest number of blood donations among Ontario universities last year.
Queen’s students collected the third highest number of blood donations among Ontario universities last year.
Photo: 
Bethany Gray, ArtSci '14, donates blood for the first time at a Canadian Blood Services clinic.
Bethany Gray, ArtSci '14, donates blood for the first time at a Canadian Blood Services clinic.
Photo: 

Queen’s is helping to field a growing number of blood donations from the campus community.

Last year, Queen’s volunteers collected 575 units of blood, with proceeds going to Kingston General Hospital, Hotel Dieu and clinics in Belleville. McMaster University almost doubled Queen’s annual total with 1,157 blood donations, compared to Guelph University’s 591 units and Wilfrid Laurier University’s 518 units.

In each unit, there’s enough blood to save three people.

This year, volunteers from the Queen’s University Blood Team (QUBT) are working to increase the amount of blood they collect from students. Their goal is 600 units.

The Blood Team, started in 2003, oversees the Queen’s chapter of the Partners for Life program. The initiative, run by Canadian Blood Services, aims to provide organizations with the tools needed to meet a blood donation goal. Blood Services workers collect donations made at campus clinics, bringing the necessary equipment and supplies.

Blood donors can donate whole blood, plasma or platelets. Donating whole blood can take minutes, while the process for plasma or platelets takes longer. Both kinds of donations require separating the blood and can take about an hour.

“People realize that it’s such little effort on their part,” Blood Team Co-Chair Krista Everett said.

Starting at 17 years old, donors can give whole blood every 56 days for the rest of their life as long as they’re in good health. Donating plasma or platelets can be done more often.

“Someone who has come back and donated three times is likely to come back and donate for the rest of their lives,” Everett, ArtSci ’12, said. “I’ve donated three times [and] I know I’ll be a donor for life.”

QUBT’s on-campus donation clinics make it easy for students to donate. They’ve held six clinics so far, with another one slated for the end of March.

The clinics are typically booked to capacity with 64 appointments at BioSci and 56 at the ARC.

By holding the clinic in these high-traffic areas, students walking by can fill in any empty slots.

“If you’re nervous about donation, then chances are you might not have the best experience,” she said, adding that many students avoid donation because they’re afraid of needles.

“At least, that’s the reason people give us.”

For an eight-hour clinic, the target is 64 units. For shorter four-hour clinics, it’s 48 to 52 units.

“They don’t want to oversupply the hospital with blood because it could just go and be wasted,” she said. “It can only be stored for a number of days.”

Platelets have the shortest shelf life — five days. Plasma can be stored for up to 10 years.

Another popular event is the What’s Your Type booth, held regularly on campus. Here, students give a finger prick of blood to be tested for their blood type.

According to Blood Services, 39 per cent of Canadians have O+ blood — one of six blood types. Everett said O+ is the most common type among students who get tested.

QUBT also works with Canadian Blood Services’ permanent Kingston clinic to collect donations.

Each week, six to eight students can sign up to get free transportation to the permanent clinic on Gardiners Road where they can make donations.

According to Serreh Koeslag, the Queen’s Blood Team’s involvement has helped raise attendance at Kingston’s clinic.

“Their involvement with promotion and putting up posters … has a huge effect,” Koeslag, community development co-ordinator of the Canadian Blood Services Kingston branch, said.

She said not everyone is eligible to give blood.

“There’s some general things, like tattoos have to be six months old before you donate, dental work has to be at least 72 hours old, [or] you have to be at least 110 pounds,” she said, adding that it’s best that donors call in advance to ensure they’re eligible. Travelling to regions with a malaria risk also makes people off-limits to donate for a short period.

Of the 75 per cent of Canadians eligible to donate, four per cent become donors.

“The majority of our donors are middle-aged, although we are trying to attract those younger donors,” Koeslag said.

The Young Blood for Life program focuses on encouraging young Canadians to donate. Over 37,000 teenagers donated blood in 2011. Koeslag regularly works with Kingston-area high schools so that students there can donate blood.

She said a portion of Kingston blood donations go to a national supply for emergencies, or if another province isn’t meeting its quota.

While there aren’t any large spikes in blood donation demand throughout the year, Koeslag said some weekends require more blood donations than others.

“There are certain times of the year where there are typically more accidents — long weekends and holidays where they are more people on the roads,” she said. “We try to cater to those.”

The Kingston clinic plans donation clinics specifically around those weekends.

“We’ll try to have a clinic on the Friday before a long weekend so that the blood’s there when you need it,” Koeslag said.

The Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN) is a provincial organization that works to meet another need: organ and tissue donation. One organ donor can save up to eight lives.

Started in 2002, TGLN works to increase living and deceased organ and tissue donations by encouraging Ontario citizens to register as organ donors. People can register at 16 years old.

The Queen’s chapter of TGLN was started in September 2010. It currently has 20 members.

Last year, the chapter held part of TGLN’s campus tour, dubbed Recycle Me. The on-campus event looked to get students to register as organ donors.

“I feel like it’s such a good thing to do,” chapter President Stephanie Lapinsky, ArtSci ’12, said. “Why waste your organs when you could go to save eight other people’s lives?”

Lapinsky said by registering consent to donate, family members and doctors can be sure of your decision to donate instead of losing a potentially viable transplant organ.

“[After death], everything has to happen really quickly because otherwise the organs basically die,” she said. “A lot of organs are missed because doctors and family members aren’t sure of what the person wanted.

“By getting the word out, more organs will be used instead of wasted.” According to TGLN’s Vice-President of Operations Versha Prakash, young people are more willing to learn about organ and tissue donation.

“They haven’t made up their mind,” she said. “They might not know a lot about the topic but they’re receptive to learning more and generally once they learn more, they’re predisposed to registering and being donors.”

TGLN helped centralize organ and tissue donations to one network.

“Before then … there was an organization called Organ Donation Ontario,” Prakash said. “It was a very decentralized and regional system prior to TGLN’s creation.”

According to Prakash, there’s been a significant increase in donations since TLGN’s creation, with most people registering between the ages of 16 and 30.

“We’ve seen deceased organ donation grow from 2001 to 2011 by 72 per cent,” she said.

Deceased organ donations can only be collected if the donor died in a way that preserved vital organs — usually cardiac or brain related. Organs are tested for viability before a transplant.

“Wait times typically vary by the organ that they’re waiting for,” Prakash said. “It also is dependent on other factors such as someone’s health conditions [and] their blood type.”

Patients waiting for a lung transplant have an average waiting time of six months, while patients waiting for a kidney transplant can wait for over four years.

In 2011, there were seven transplants performed in Kingston. All were for new kidneys. There are currently eight people on the waiting list for an organ in Kingston.

One kidney and a portion of the liver can be used for a living organ. In certain cases, a portion of the lung, intestine, pancreas or heart can come from a living donor.

“There are about 1,500 people in Ontario waiting for an organ transplant and the kidney waiting list is just over 1,000,” Prakash said, adding that this has to do with the prevalence of chronic kidney disease in Canada’s population.

To help satisfy the need for organ donations, Prakash said everyone over 16 years old should register as an organ and tissue donor.

“A lot of people think that if they’re too old, they shouldn’t register,” she said. “Our message is regardless of their age or health, one should register.

“What isn’t possible today could be possible in the future because technology is rapidly changing.”

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