Blood Donations Still Being Collected

By John Swartz

If you’ve never given blood before, now might be the time to consider doing so. It’s not entirely painless, depending on your personal threshold, but if you’ve ever stubbed your toe before, that is worse.

The Canadian Blood Service (CBS) has had to cancel The April and May clinics in Orillia, usually held at the Mariposa Inn, because of the current COVID-19 crisis.

“We would never be able to intake the volume of people we normally have. Unfortunately we made the decision at this time, with the Barrie location being so close and an environment we can control, the best bet is to postpone those events for right now until this thing settles down,” said Elaine St. Pierre, the donor relations territory manager for the CBS.

If you have been to the Orillia clinic, you know they manage to cram a large number of beds into the banquet room, plus a waiting area, and a nice corner to have some juice and a cookie on the way out.

“You are usually shoulder to shoulder and there’s not a square inch of space left,” said St. Pierre.

This doesn’t really fit with the physical distancing directives, and the number of people in public rooms directives. For the time being Orillia donors are being directed to make appointments to give blood at the CBS office on Bayview Drive in Barrie (between Little and Big Bay Point roads). Unlike the travelling clinics, there are no walk-in donations accepted. You have to make an appointment, and be prepared for a different routine than you may have experienced before.

“We need to make sure everything we do is following all the guidelines to maintain the safety of the blood supply,” said St. Pierre.

Elaine St. Pierre

“There’s really nowhere to position them (donors, inside), so we’re checking them in, saying “OK, we got you, we know you are here. Thanks very much, but you can’t come in side.”

Waiting in your car until called is the drill.

“We call them in. It’s kind of like, “your table’s ready.””

They also don’t want you to go to the donation clinic with other people, unless they too are donating. And, it’s probably best not to make stops on your way there either. There’ll be time to pick up groceries afterward.

There is no critical shortage at the moment. Currently they have a 6 day supply of B- and O- blood, ranging upward to 14 days for AB+. That said, all the other needs for blood continue during this crisis and they want to make sure they keep their supplies up.

“We’ve been experiencing some increased traffic, obviously, since Mr. Trudeau said Canadians should go out and donate blood,” said St. Pierre. “We have been able to maintain our inventory in the short term.”

“It (blood) has a very short shelf life. The blood we are collecting on a daily basis is being used up within several days and we need to make sure it’s always coming in.”

If you have not given blood before, check out the questionnaire to find out if you are eligible. Reviewing the questionnaire may save everybody’s time. If you answer any of the questions in a way which in your mind would eliminate you (some are obvious, some not) it might not hurt to call because some answers will not necessarily eliminate you once they have more information from you.

For people who have donated, you should still review the questionnaire because there are some new questions relating to COVID-19. Though not the complete virus inquiry, these points:

  • People who have tested positive for COVID-19;
  • People who have developed a fever and cough after close contact with someone who has tested positive
  • People who have developed a fever and cough within 14 days of travel outside Canada
  • Those who develop a fever and cough after close contact with a symptomatic person who became ill within two weeks of travel outside Canada.

will eliminate you for 14 days. People who have also been exposed in the community or at work to those above may also be temporarily ineligible.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we appreciate all the number of people that have stepped up to make sure our events every day are full. If you don’t get an appointment in the next two days, you know what? It might be better to book one for next month because we are really going to need you for the weeks and months ahead,” said St. Pierre.

Those experiencing difficulty registering online can call 1-888-236-6283 to book.

The CBS is also applying to start a COVID-19 convalescent plasma trial which could be an effective treatment for the coronavirus. Canadian Blood Services is part of a team in partnership with Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, Singapore, South Korea, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.  

“We have the expertise and the infrastructure necessary to collect and prepare convalescent plasma for use in a clinical trial to test its safety and effectiveness as a treatment option,” said Dr. Dana Devine, chief scientist for Canadian Blood Services. “Plasma will only be collected from volunteer donors who have fully recovered from the virus and will be used by Canadian physicians caring for patients with COVID-19 in the context of the clinical trial.” 

They will source donors from hospitals and health units. They will be finding out if antibodies of recovered COVID-19 sufferers can help others in early stages of the disease. They say in theory, those antibodies could be the key ingredient for a treatment.  

(Images and Photos Supplied)


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