On September 27th and 28th, an Héma-Québec blood drive was held at Vanier College. Though the moral implications of the ban implemented by the Canadian government on donations given by men who have sex with men have certainly created controversy (see Colin Golding’s article “If you Prick us, do we not Bleed?”), there is no doubt that individuals who have the ability to give blood, should. Each donation helps three people on average, and while awaiting the government to modify their discriminatory policy, donating generously if you aren’t affected by the policy, is, in the meantime, the only thing anyone can do to help.
As far as the specifics concerning the development of the blood drive at Vanier, it’s worth noting that the organizational aspect of the drive was fantastic. Their new system was based on appointment-taking, rather than waiting in line. This allowed the donors to relax and calm their nerves. The difference was tangible: by spending time with friends, rather than allowing their anxiety to exacerbate by spending large stretches of time in line, alone with their own fears, donors felt calmer when their time came. This meant far fewer negative side effects brought on by stress, and of course, made it much easier on the Héma-Québec staff themselves.
For anyone who might be considering participating in the next blood drive – Vanier tries to host one every semester or so – but are unsure of the proceedings, they are as follows:
Three booths were set up in Jake’s Café; the first one was an information booth, where people’s questions and concerns could be addressed. It’s also where willing individuals could receive a ticket to fill out in order to participate in the activity at the second booth.
This was where anyone over the age of 18, regardless of whether or not they intended to give blood, could get a test revealing their blood type. Three drops of blood are collected and mixed with three different chemicals to watch for a reaction: the first is to test for type-A blood, the second for type-B, and the third, for a positive. Type-AB blood is detected through the blood’s reaction to both first chemicals, and type-O is discovered through the blood’s absence of reaction with either of the first two chemicals. The process only took a couple of minutes, and was rather informative.
The third booth was the most important for the smooth running of the drive: this was where individuals over 18 could, with presentation of a valid ID card, sign up for a blood donation. Signees were then given a time of donation which was convenient to them.
Once the time came, people who had signed up were called, and directed to the large Héma-Québec vehicle parked on school grounds. Once inside, people filled out a questionnaire, and were interviewed by a nurse. Afterwards, they took a blood test to check for the amount of globules present in the blood stream, followed by a blood pressure test. If the candidates were deemed to be in good health and presenting low risk in terms of donation, they were led to one of the comfortable chairs where they could lie down, chatting with the volunteers and the other donors, while awaiting the start of their donation.
Many first time donors are, understandably, scared of the potential pain involved with a donation; these people should be reassured. While there is a rather sharp pain connected to the entry point of the needle, as it pierces the donor’s skin, the donation itself, once it starts, is entirely painless. The process takes some five to ten minutes depending on the rapidity of one’s blood flow, and once it is over, the donor receives snacks, juice, and advice: to remain well hydrated, eat good amounts of food, and avoid heavy amounts of exercise in the few hours following the donation. Most notable, however, is the sense of pride people feel after donating with the knowledge that they have just helped save a life.
Donating if one has the capacity to is entirely worth the trouble it may pose. Potential donors should be advised to research and follow the Héma-Québec directives concerning pre-donation habits. People should, for example, be sure to eat healthy amounts of food, particularly foods containing iron, and remain well hydrated prior to a donation. As long as one follows the advice given out by professionals, the donation process should run rather smoothly. Additionally, it has been proven that there are very real health benefits to donations: as they force the body to increase production of new blood, the couple of days following a donation may make individuals feel increasingly tired, however, energy levels following that will be increased, and it is believed to have positive effects on one’s mood and on general, overall health.
On this wondrously sombre Halloween season, may we let the blood flow freely!
Written By: June Rossaert