Q - I heard there is an age cut-off for donating blood – is this true? What are the most common reasons a senior donor might be deferred from donating blood? And what are the most common reasons a senior might need blood products to stay healthy?
A – In the past two issues of “Maturity Matters,” we’ve tackled the first two questions, pertaining to seniors donating blood. In this issue, we’ll touch on some of the most common reasons a senior might make the switch from donor to recipient, highlighting the importance of donating blood while healthy.
Believe it or not, blood products are needed in Canada every minute of every day. And blood is needed for many more situations than treating trauma victims. In fact, the most common need for blood among seniors is in conjunction with cancer treatment. Many patients require life-sustaining and life-saving blood transfusions to counter the adverse effects of either the cancer itself or the chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy; red blood cell transfusions prevent or treat anemia, and platelet transfusions prevent bruising and bleeding. Many cancer patients wouldn’t be able to receive treatments at all without blood transfusions, regardless of age.
Other common uses for blood products for senior patients are during orthopaedic procedures (e.g. hip and knee replacements due to osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis) or during cardiac procedures (e.g. coronary artery grafting for coronary artery disease).
Many Canadians are shocked at how quickly they can go from donor to recipient, and quickly realize how grateful they are to know blood is available to everyone who needs it.
Given that more than 50 per cent of Canadians say that either they or someone they know has needed blood, we need as many Canadians as possible to continue giving blood on behalf of hospital patients, both young and old.
Dr. Mark Bigham is a Medical Consultant for both Canadian Blood Services and Fraser Health Authority in British Columbia.