DC, UOIT students give blood

Photo by Noor Ibrahim

James Skelton donates blood with a big smile.

The gym at Durham College and UOIT is usually bustling with students playing basketball. However, recently it was home to the Canadian Blood Services donor clinic.

Canadian Blood Services comes to campus twice a year, with one donor clinic per semester. The most recent clinic was held on Nov. 8.  The clinics give the students a chance to donate blood without leaving campus. They receive about 60 donations per campus clinic.

According to event coordinator, Laura Ashton, almost half of the donors on campus were first timers. While that is a high number of new donors, Ashton says it is not unusual for a college campus.

“Most students don’t get the opportunity to donate blood until they’re in college,” said Ashton. “The legal age to donate blood is 17, so that is why many students come out.”

The campus clinics are one of 14,000 across Canada every year. They collect blood for a wide range of uses – from people who require blood transfusions following car accidents to those who require blood as part of cancer treatment. They also aid in organ transplants. Last year, Canadian Blood Services received more than 850,000 donations.

Donors go through a five-step process. First, they register and present ID. Then they answer a confidential questionnaire about their physical and sexual health.

Next, they get interviewed by staff for follow up questions.  Then finally, students can donate blood. The last step? Sitting back for snacks and refreshments.

Gerry Lynch is a member of the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal organization that focuses on charity. He volunteers at the campus clinic twice a year.

“We really enjoy it,” says Lynch, “because having the young crowd come out and give blood, it’s always an interesting scenario.”

The blood collected has a journey of its own. At the clinic, it is packaged in special trays to maintain its temperature.

The blood is then shipped to Brampton, where it is tested for diseases, sorted into blood types, and distributed to different hospitals. The blood is separated into red blood cells, plasma, and platelets, which is a blood component that helps blood to clot.

Students can also donate stem cells at the clinic if they are between ages 17 to 35. Stem cells are immature cells that, with time, can develop to any cell in the blood stream.

Students sign up for a form and a swab is inserted into their mouth.  The swabs are then packaged and sent to Ottawa where they are processed.

According to CBS customer service representative, Melanie McEachrem, the blood type in most demand is O negative, since it’s a universal donor. It is used in emergencies when there’s no time to check for blood type.   Highly demanded blood types also include O positive and A positive.

McEachrem says blood is in most demand during holiday weekends and Christmas due to high traffic and possible accidents. Donors are also needed in summer, when most people are out of town and cannot donate.

Canadian Blood Services will host another blood donor clinic on campus next semester. They also have plans to host a stem cell-only clinic.