On Saturday, my friends and I visited the Canadian Blood Services Processing Plant. It was part of Doors Open Ottawa, an annual event where a bunch of places around the city open their doors to the public. You get the chance to see what happens behind closed doors! There was a lot more to do there than we originally imagined.. In fact, we ended up hanging out for over 3 hours!!
The three of us are doing our Masters in Public Health together. So, we were pretty curious about what happens after blood donations are collected. They were giving tours of their facility. We got to see how the lab technicians separated the red blood cells, from the platelets, from the plasma (in a centrifuge). We also got to see how they removed the white blood cells. We even learned about shipping times, collection regions, and the incredible volume of work.
Did you know that in Canada we remove the white blood cells from ALL the blood supply? In the United States, this is a “premium product” and would cost more!! Removing the white blood cells reduces the likelihood of infection and rejection. That’s a good thing, so I think it’s cool that Canada does this for all their blood supply. I’m too young to remember Canada’s tainted blood scandal, though I know it was a defining moment in Canada’s history. It seems like we have recovered quite well, though.
I have never actually donated blood myself, but I have always wanted to. Maybe this was the extra nudge that I needed to sign up! Did you know that the summer time is when the blood reserves fall to their lowest? There is a high demand in the summer, especially because of the number of road accidents.
We also signed up to be stem cell donors through their OneMatch program. I was a little skeptical of signing up, but it’s not as scary as I thought it was!! I thought it involved a spinal tap, but 80% of the time, it’s done the same way as a blood donation. They take your blood from your arm, separate out the stem cells, and give you your blood back. Cool, eh? If you’re curious about the donation process, it’s outlined pretty well on their site.
It’s called OneMatch, because each person likely only has one match. It’s so so so hard to find a matching donor, unlike with blood. If you are a match, you are likely that person’s only chance for survival. Makes you feel really important, doesn’t it? If I was in a situation where I needed a stem cell transplant, I would hope that someone would be willing to help me!
I believe in the sanctity of human life, and I believe that every human life has value. I want to save lives, and signing up to be a donor is the newest way that I am supporting human life!
Are you a blood or stem cell donor? If not, you should definitely look into it. Learn more about how your donation could save somebody’s life! For real!
PS. We were featured on CBC Ottawa. Check it out! (Starts at 23:01)