On October 19, 2023, over a hundred students donated their blood at the On-Campus Blood Drive, organized collaboratively by the Canadian Blood Services and UTM NextGen Lifeline—a student organization that raises awareness on and facilitates blood and plasma donation opportunities for students and faculty.
The Medium spoke to Alina Farooq, a community development manager at the Canadian Blood Services, to discuss the blood donation drive and the state of blood donations in Canada. “We had over 108 people present to donate blood […] We collected 84 units of blood, and our goal was actually just 72,” stated Farooq. She noted that 90 of the 108 people were first-time donors, and the blood donation drive was a success.
Farooq explained that the Canadian Blood Services works with donors to provide blood products to recipients in need. “Life can change in seconds, whether it’s for yourself or one of your loved ones. [You] might need blood urgently, and there’s no substitute for donated blood or plasma,” stated Farooq.
Taking a deeper dive into terminology, donated blood is used for many medical procedures, treatment, and disease management. Plasma is found within blood, and is a “protein-rich liquid” that is important for the immune system and managing bleeding. It is used in various treatments and can be transfused to patients or processed into plasma protein products such as immunoglobulin—which some patients depend on to live.
Farooq noted that the Covid-19 pandemic drove changes in donor behaviour. “There were fewer people donating regularly, and even just looking back at this past summer, it was difficult to maintain an ideal blood and plasma supply when donors were out of their regular routine.” She brought up this summer’s emergencies, such as the wildfires, which derailed many donors’ routines. Donors became preoccupied with immediate issues, reducing the number of blood donation bookings and overall attendance.
The Medium also spoke to UTM NextGen Lifeline through email. Adding to the statistics related to the blood donation drive at UTM, the organization revealed that 36 people had registered to join the Canadian Blood Service stem cell registry. Stem cell transplants are vital for the treatment of some types of cancer and immune system-related illnesses. Currently, around 1,000 people in Canada are waiting for stem cell transplants.
The organization noted that around two percent of Canada’s eligible population actively donate their blood, which is far from what is needed to meet demands. With the motto “Blood Does Not Discriminate,” the organization emphasized that the community, even when fragmented, may come together to pursue the cause of donating blood to those in need. The organization has also dedicated itself to addressing any concerns and misconceptions about blood and plasma donations.
Student donors can contribute so much to addressing blood shortages. The earlier that a student is recruited into regular blood donations, the more blood reaches patients in need. In the same light, the later a student is recruited, the more blood that could have been used to save lives is forgone. “This issue is accentuated for minorities, who often require blood or plasma products from members of the same ethnic group. Since the UTM population is very young and ethnically diverse, our on-campus recruitment efforts are therefore doubly important,” explained UTM Next Gen Lifeline.
As a closing thought, the organization stated in their email: “The UTM community’s support was a testament to the strength and unity of campus life, and we look forward to hosting, educating, and continuing the journey of making a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable. We’ve barely scratched the surface within UTM, and we can’t wait to see where the future takes us as a community.”
More information about UTM NextGen Lifeline’s events and initiatives can be found on their Instagram page, and interested individuals are encouraged to sign up as a member.
Students interested in blood donation can visit the Canadian Blood Services website to find the closest locations to them and book appointments. This can also be done using the GiveBlood app or calling 1-888-236-6283 directly.