For Peter MacDonald and his colleagues across the country at Canadian Blood Services, blood donation offices started to get worse two weeks ago, just as COVID-19 cases have increased.
MacDonald, director of donor relations for the Atlantic provinces, noticed a change on March 12, the day Ontario announced that schools would remain closed after the March break.
A constant stream of cancellations has started, which quickly equates to a massive 40% drop in donations last Monday and Tuesday in his region. A similar reduction has been observed from coast to coast.
“If such a trend had continued, it would have been worrying for us,” he said from the Dartmouth, Nova Scotia treatment center.
Blood products have a shelf life. While the plasma can be frozen and the red blood cells last 42 days, the platelets – necessary for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy – last only seven days.
But there has since been a reversal of fortune, thanks to blood donors who answer an urgent call. Donations rebounded in clinics across the country as Canadians responded to the call of political and public health leaders.
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam and, most recently, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Strang, asked people who can donate to continue – even if they are repeatedly told to stay at home as much as possible and maintain social distance.
Cydney Kane, a third-year student at the Schulich School of Law in Halifax, saw the plea on her social media feed.
“The mere fact of seeing the call go by and knowing that there was a need and knowing that I could do something to help me was more than enough to get me out and make an appointment,” he said. she said shortly after giving blood at the Halifax clinic on Tuesday.
She is far from the only one to roll up her sleeve this week. Blood donation targets are met or exceeded in cities from Vancouver to St. John’s; mobile clinics in small communities are experiencing a similar increase, says MacDonald.
In Halifax, donations have increased 20% so far this week and appointments are reserved until early April.
“So everyone gave up at the same time, and everyone supports up to 100% of the donations and even exceeds the donations,” said MacDonald.
He thinks that motivation comes from a feeling of helplessness and a desire to make a difference.
“It’s about bringing out the best in people,” he said.
Kane had no qualms about donating blood for the 13th time. At the Halifax clinic, there are improved protocols for coronaviruses, such as additional travel, health and contact questions, disposable brochures have replaced reusable ones, cleaning and disinfection are frequent, and chairs are available. been removed to provide physical distance. The donation is now by appointment only.
“I thought there probably weren’t many other places that would be much safer,” said Kane.
The challenge is to maintain momentum, as pandemic response measures are expected to last weeks, if not months. A large increase in donations is not necessary.
“For blood-dependent patients, this is a marathon, not a sprint,” said MacDonald.