While walking through the UCC in the past few weeks, many students stopped by a red and white booth to get their finger pricked and their blood type checked. Several of those students returned to donate blood during the two-day clinic held last week. While that clinic may be over, interested students can look forward to the several visits Canadian Blood Services will be making in the next few months.

Though the need for blood donations often receives a lot of attention after a notable disaster, Marisa Gatfield, a coordinator for Canadian Blood Services, emphasizes the constant need for new donors to come out.

“Our optimal inventory for blood is five to eight days, nationally. Most donations are used within five days. That’s why there’s a constant need to replenish the blood that we collect—to ensure that we meet the needs of hospitals across the county,” says Gatfield. 

Gatfield, who serves as the territory manager for Canadian Blood Services in London, works to ensure that the blood clinics in her area come in on target.

“At the University of Western, we have a clinic target of 72 units of blood [a day]. That is what we need to collect here at the University every time we come and visit. So we would need approximately about 110, 115 donors to come in to donate that blood,” explains Gatfield.

Many of the students who came to the clinic last week are recurring donors. 

Blake VanBerlo, a fourth-year software engineering student, explains that he has donated over a dozen times. 

“My family has received a number of benefits from having programs like this. My mother received a lot of transfusions back when she was receiving chemotherapy,” says VanBerlo, explaining what motivates him to participate.

Gatfield details that the collected blood can help a variety of patients. For example, eight donors may be needed each week to help a person with leukemia, and up to fifty for someone who has been in a car crash.

For those interested in donating for the first time, Gatfield strongly recommends that they visit, which lists the ABC’s of eligibility – from height and weight considerations to acceptable medications.

Olivia Gomes, a fourth-year nursing student and repeating donor, welcomes those interested to come by the next clinic.

“Even if you think you have a slight inclination of donating, just come, talk to somebody, there’s lots of staff members here that can answer your questions about it and you can even just see the process with all of your other peers going through it and they’re all okay, enjoying snacks,” says Gomes.

VanBerlo notes that a lot of people thinking about donating may be scared about the possible after effects.

”I think that the fact that some people faint gets over-publicized, and is a huge deterrent to people who have never been [out to donate]. I think if you're considering, you should definitely try at least try once and if you’re uncomfortable, don’t do it again. Everyone [at the clinic] is there to help you and they’re very glad that you’re there, so if you feel uncomfortable, they’re going to help you,” said VanBerlo.

Gatfield affirms that giving blood does not put a person’s health at risk. The two cups of blood that are taken from each donor are replenished within 48 hours. She also adds that not everyone who attends the clinic meets the criteria. A person will only be eligible to donate if is safe for them to give. 

For those interested in getting involved, aside from donating, Sanduni Wickramananda, a three-year volunteer for CBS describes her experience as overwhelmingly positive and welcomes others who share an interest in this cause.

“I’m very interested in healthcare so [volunteering here] helps me explore how the public interacts with our healthcare system, outside of hospitals and other treatment centers,“ she explains. 

Wickramananda also mentions the importance of attracting first time donors to these on campus clinics.

“We get a lot of first time donors [in September] and it’s really good because they help sustain the pool of students that are going to be continuing to donate, throughout their four years,” she comments.

The two-day clinic last week collected 130 units of blood, achieving 90 per cent of the collection target of 144 units. Canadian Blood Services will be back four times in the month of November. For those interested, students are encouraged to book an appointment, stay hydrated and well fed, bring identification and give it a try.


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