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Urgent blood donations needed from Islanders

Nurse Sheila McKillop shares a laugh with Larry Sider as he donates plasma at the Charlottetown clinic for Canadian Blood Services, located at 85 Fitzroy St.
Nurse Sheila McKillop shares a laugh with Larry Sider as he donates plasma at the Charlottetown clinic for Canadian Blood Services, located at 85 Fitzroy St. - Emily Acorn

Prince Edward Island needs 36 more blood donors a week.

The usual weekly quota of blood units donated from Islanders is 144. The number is currently sitting at 108.

Peter MacDonald, director of donor relations for Atlantic Canada, stressed there is enough blood for P.E.I. hospitals, but the national inventory is what needs to be topped up.

“We send out an urgent message to stay on top of the national inventory. There is blood moved around the country on a regular basis.”

MacDonald says winter is the slowest season for donations because people don’t get out as much.

“Weather is a big obstacle,” he said, adding that it sometimes forces clinics to be cancelled.

Another reason people aren’t donating is that they aren’t being asked, said MacDonald.

“People are busy and they don’t always think to donate. It’s just not a part of their busy lives.”

Aaron MacDougall finds the time.

In 2014, a group of his friends arranged an evening to donate blood to a mutual friend with cancer. It was his first time donating and despite some nervousness, he felt it was the right thing to do. His blood type, O negative, can be used for anyone needing it.

“Prior to that, the idea absolutely frightened me, but as a universal donor I thought it was time to suck it up for a friend in need.”

After that he learned about the great need for blood and he donates as often as possible, he said.

“I generally donate whole blood every 56 days, which is as often as Canadian Blood Services will allow.”

He also offers advice for other donors.

Eating foods rich in iron, staying well hydrated and well rested are the best things to do before a clinic, said MacDougall.

“When you get there, don’t watch anyone else get theirs before it’s your time in the chair.”

Phlebotomists, professionals specializing vein incisions, are there to make the process as smooth as possible, he said.

“Oh yeah, the cookies and chocolate milk after is a huge bonus.”

Potential donors can take the eligibility quiz on the Canadian Blood Services website, blood.ca. 

“A lot of people aren’t aware that some referrals on the quiz can be excused if you ask about them at the clinic,” said MacDougall.

One of the restrictions is controversial among potential donors. Men who have sex with men are only eligible to donate blood if they have not had sexual contact with a man for at least one year.

Twenty-six-year-old Lindsay Schieck says that clause is keeping some of her friends from being able to contribute. But, she plans to donate for the first time since 2012.

“I saw the urgent call for donations nationally,” said Schieck. “That’s why I donate – because I’m allowed and so many aren’t.”

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