Gift of blood, gift of life

Every year in Quebec, over 75,000 patients require the transfusion of various blood products. These products are derived from blood donated by close to 300,000 donors (3% of Quebecers admissible for blood donation) during close to 3,000 blood drives. Although these numbers may seem high, Hema-Québec’s blood products reserves are often very low.

Every year in Quebec, over 75,000 patients require the transfusion of various blood products. These products are derived from blood donated by close to 300,000 donors (3% of Quebecers admissible for blood donation) during close to 3,000 blood drives. Although these numbers may seem high, Hema-Québec’s blood products reserves are often very low. In fact, blood products are perishable and must therefore be renewed regularly. For example, platelets from human blood can only be kept for five days. Hence, Héma-Québec must manage numerous successive blood drives to ensure a continuous and adequate supply to hospitals.

It is important donors understand that giving blood does not endanger their life, nor does it expose them to diseases. All the equipment used by the health professionals at Héma-Québec to collect blood from donors is sterile, single-use only and is destroyed after usage.

A single blood donation can help save up to four lives. In fact, the blood taken from a donor undergoes a transformation to divide it into four components: plasma, platelets, red blood cells and cryoprecipitate. In addition, blood products are quarantined until the results of numerous analyses (blood type and screening tests) are confirmed. Only the donations that fully meet Héma-Québec’s rigorous quality control standards are forwarded to hospitals. Finally, the choice of blood product that will be administered to the patient is based on the nature of his or her health problem, and is determined by the treating physician.

The blood collected by Héma-Québec is analysed to detect numerous viruses such as HIV and hepatitis viruses. A group of researchers is currently working on developing additional tests that would allow the detection of other diseases and viruses.

Swedish researchers wanted to know if blood transfusion could increase cancer risk in recipients. They analysed the data entered in the Swedish and Danish blood bank registers from 1968 to 2002. They identified all blood donors who had been diagnosed with cancer in the five years following a blood donation. A total of 354,094 transfusion recipients were included in the analysis. Approximately 12,000 of them had received the blood of a donor whose cancer had yet to be diagnosed.

Based on their analysis, researchers concluded that the patients who had received blood from donors with undiagnosed cancer were not at greater risk of developing cancer than patients who had received blood from donors who did not have cancer. Therefore, there is no evidence indicating that blood transfusion is a vector in the propagation of cancer.

“Give blood. Give life” says Héma-Québec. So, why not take the time to visit a Globules Blood Donor Centre near you, or visit Héma-Québec’s Website to learn about upcoming blood drives in your area. The entire blood donation process takes approximately 60 minutes, but the donation itself only takes 10 minutes! Blood is a vital resource that can help save precious human lives.

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