Donating blood: Why, where and how?

There’s always a lot to be thankful for around the holidays. And a great way to celebrate that is by taking a moment to give back. This season, take the time to give blood. By doing so, you could add saving up to three lives to your list of the year’s accomplishments.

woman donating blood

Why should you give blood?

Canadian Blood Services estimates that every minute of the day, someone in Canada needs blood. Something as simple as a hip replacement requires roughly two units of blood, and a car accident victim could need up to 50 units. And because your blood is separated into different components before being mixed with the bloods of other donors prior to use, just one donation could save up to three lives. Plus, you can donate every 56 days.

Who can donate?

If you are over the age of 17, you’re eligible to donate. But keep in mind that if you’re older than 61 and have never donated blood before, you may need written confirmation from your doctor to be eligible. No matter what your age, make sure you feel in good health on the day you donate and eat a good breakfast. And don’t forget to bring a piece of identification with your full name and signature or photo.

How does it work?

The donation process

Giving blood is simple and not nearly as scary as you might expect. A quick prick of your finger tells whether your iron levels are high enough to donate. You then answer a few basic questions on a private questionnaire about your general health and life experiences that might make your blood a risk to others. Quick checks of your blood pressure and body temperature will tell the nurse whether you’re healthy and fit to give blood.

A few quick questions

The nurse will take you somewhere private to ask you questions that are a little more intimate in nature. But if you don’t feel comfortable answering any of the questions honestly, that’s OK. At the end of the questioning period, the nurse will exit the room and leave you with two bar-coded stickers. One means you want them to use your blood; the other means you aren’t sure if your blood might be at risk based on the questions and would rather not have your blood be given to others. You pick the sticker you’re comfortable with, and attach it to your sheet. This last-minute option means you don’t have to worry about the embarrassment of walking out of the donation centre based on the questions. Instead, you can still go through the process but keep others safe as well.

You can be a hero

The donation process itself is very easy. You lie down in a comfy chair, are given something to squeeze and simply sit back and relax until the bag is filled. At the end of it all you’re provided with juice, snacks and a pin to showcase what you’ve done. One unit of blood is about 450 millilitres and typically takes less than 15 minutes to get. In total the whole experience should take you about an hour. Just an hour of your day can make you a hero!

how to donate

Just call 888-2DONATE (888-236-6283) to set up an appointment, or stop in at a location near you. As they say, “It’s in you to give”!

More on giving back

Volunteering as a family
No-money ways to improve your community
How to give back easily

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