Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to voice my support for Bill S-214, declaring the second week in June to be national blood donor week. This simple act would not only provide Canada with a dedicated week to celebrate the generosity of donors and the needs that they respond to, but it will also help people gain a greater understanding of just what blood donation is all about.
I recently found out a few interesting things about blood and blood donation that I would like to share with my colleagues. It certainly helped me to understand what the “gift of life”, as we call it, really means and why we need a variety of volunteers to donate on a regular basis. It is really important.
The most important observation I have made is that we cannot leave blood donations up to everyone else. Saying another person will do it simply does not fill the need for blood donations in our needed blood supply in Canada.
I would like to begin by recognizing that blood donation is not simply blood. Each donation is made up of and broken down into several parts, mainly red blood cells, white cells, platelets and plasma. Patients do not just get blood. They get specific components from specific donations based on their need and blood type. Clearly we need many volunteer blood donors all year round to meet a need that can really only be known for sure on a patient by patient basis.
I would now like to share some information about the blood components I just mentioned. This will help illustrate just why we need all eligible Canadians to step up and roll up their sleeves. I might add that declaring the second week in June to be national blood donor week would go a long way toward getting that message out loud and clear in every part of this country.
I will begin with plasma. Plasma makes up 55% of total blood volume and does many things, such as transporting blood cells and nutrients throughout the body and defending against infection. Plasma is often needed by burn victims or hemophiliacs. Red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are suspended in blood plasma.
Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. A drop of blood the size of a pinhead, and this is unbelievable, carries about five million red blood cells. It is amazing that these incredible tiny entities can do such a job.
People who have lost a lot of blood through accident or surgery or who have anemia may be given red blood cells. Did everyone know that, once more, we are not all the same? Between 43% to 49% of men's blood is composed of red blood cells while it is 37% to 43% in women.
White blood cells are slightly larger than red and protect the body by moving in to fight infection. If anyone has ever been ill and felt oneself getting better, that is the white blood cells at work. Yesterday I had a sore throat and knew I had a little infection. I could feel those white cells or something working and by doing the research on this speech, I now know what it was. I am going to have a little different view about getting better. It is the cells working in one's body.
Sometimes white blood cells are needed by people with weak immune systems as well. To meet this need, white blood cells can be collected through a process call apheresis, whereby white cells are separated from plasma and removed from the donor. There are 6,000 to 8,000 white blood cells per cubic millilitre of blood. However, it does not end there.
Finally, I want to talk about a component of blood that might be in a way a little more familiar to us as we have all moved through the bumps and scrapes of growing up.
Platelets are a component of blood that contribute to wound healing. When a person cuts a finger, for example, or if a child skins his or her knee, we can see platelets working as part of the healing process. They are even smaller than red and white blood cells. Approximately two tablespoons of platelets come from a single blood donation. Cancer or organ transplant patients may require these platelets.
As we see, a blood donation is not simply a blood donation. It is the generous giving of several parts and maybe it makes sense now how a single donation can be used to help three individuals with entirely different needs.
Declaring the second week in June to be national blood donor week can help to spread our knowledge of the science, so that people can understand how they too are helping to save possibly three people with each donation of blood that they make.
I have just talked about some different components of blood. All healthy blood has those components. That is what makes it the same, but blood is also different from person to person.
We all probably have heard the term blood type at some time in our lives and although we might not know which type we are all of us know that indeed we have a blood type. A member's blood type is probably not the same as that of his or her colleague sitting next to him or her, or any of the pages sitting in Parliament today.
What we may not know is that certain blood types are more common than others and that there is something called a universal donor and a universal recipient.
Blood O type positive is the most prevalent while AB negative is the least. Donor and recipient blood must be compatible, of course, otherwise the recipient may reject the transfused blood component.
The universal recipient is type AB positive. Patients with this type of blood can receive any of the other blood types. Universal donors are type O negative which means their donations can be given to any person in need.
While Canada's blood system obviously needs plenty of O negative donors, we also need a good supply of the other types.
We can see that a single blood donation, just one-half of a litre, and I know my colleagues in the House donate blood on a regular basis and if they do not they should, contains a lot of variety and packs a significant punch. It really is quite incredible.
By declaring the second week in June as national blood donor week we can go a long way toward helping people to better understand on many levels how and why giving blood on a regular basis, a regular donation of their particular blood type, can make a big difference in the lives of their fellow Canadians. It is something that we should do as Canadians.
I did not have to go far to find this little bit of information I shared with members today. This information and more is available on the websites of Héma-Québec and the Canadian Blood Services.
Making volunteer blood donations the focus of a single week each year can draw attention to these websites and educate potential donors not just on the importance of donating but on the wonders of what blood is really about.
In addition to sharing that science, national blood donor week would be an opportunity to answer the questions that may keep Canada's healthy adult population from donating blood on a regular basis. It is a normal human condition to be shy or fearful of something new.
Potential donors could ask their friends and family members, who have donated before, what happens during a blood donation visit. They could make a quick phone call to their nearest blood donor clinic and ask a few questions or they could just drop by and talk to an outreach representative. But many just do not get around to it. That is too bad because Canada's blood supply needs to be sustained.
National blood donor week would be an opportunity to answer many of these questions. People could find out that only adults over the age of 17, for example, can donate blood, but they can do so until at least age 71 and even longer for some people. Potential donors would find out that they need to weigh at least 110 pounds, be in good health and feeling well enough to donate. They would also learn that they can donate every 56 days.
People like to know what will happen when they venture into unknown territory. The same would apply to first time volunteer blood donors. National blood donor week will accomplish this by getting the message of how important blood donations are on a regular basis. I ask all members to support the bill.