April 24 – 29 is National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week across Canada and the Canadian Blood Services is urging Canadians to consider organ donation.
Right now, there’s a critical need for donors,” says Kimberly Young, the CBS’s director of donation and transplantation. “Every day in Canada, more than 4,600 people are waiting for news that a donor has been found. But sadly, each year more than 250 Canadians who need a transplant die before receiving one.”
Another promotional events from the Canadian Blood Service, the adopt-a-clinic program, is now finding success through group engagement and crowdsourcing. The program calls for organizations or even individuals to commit to provide enough donors to fill up a local clinic’s blood donation goal for one day.
Canadian politicians are getting in on the act. Earlier this year, Waterloo MP and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Bardish Chaggar, “adopted” the Kitchener-Waterloo Blood Donor Clinic for a day and put the call out to her friends and family. Chaggar said that 58 people signed up online and by donation day, the clinic had reached its capacity.
Last Tuesday, Ontario MPP for Kingston and the Islands, Sophie Kiwala, adopted Kingston’s clinic, saying that once she began the recruiting process two months prior, she “realized how difficult it is to get people to come out.”
“It’s really important to raise the profile to make sure people are continuing to think about the fact that this is something that you can do, and it makes a profound impact in people’s lives,” Kiwala said, to the Kingston Whig-Standard. “It can save lives.”
Half of all Canadians are eligible to donate blood, according to Canadian Blood Services, yet only one in 60 does so, representing less than 400,000 active donors. Last fall, the agency changed its guidelines, requiring increased iron levels from people wishing to donate blood and stipulating that female donors wait 12 weeks between donations instead of the previous eight.
“That means females are allowed to come in less. So it definitely affects the number of people walking through the doors,” said Debbi Barfoot, territory manager with Canadian Blood Services, to the “Our national team said we need 100,000 new donors this year, but that’s across Canada.”
The CBS is trying to get schools involved in adopt-a-clinic, too. Quinte Christian High School in Belleville, Ontario, has taken up the cause, hoping to collect 130 donations for its May 1 clinic day. “We are very excited about making a real difference in the lives of Canadian hospital patients,” said John VanderWindt, principal at Quinte Christian High to the Intelligencer. “There are 664 new blood donors needed right here in our community.”
Getting youth involved in blood donation plays significantly in the CBS’s programming, with its annual Give Life High School Challenge calling on secondary schools across the country to compete with each other to see who can donate the most blood. “The biggest benefit of participating in the challenge is knowing your school has saved lives,” says the CBS.
Those interested in becoming an organ donor or who would like to find out more can visit organtissuedonation.ca.