First a tiny pinprick, then drops of blood on a colourful tray, some swishing back and forth and voila! The announcement: “You are A positive.”
The women of the Huron Perth Women in Support of Agriculture (HPWSA) learned their blood types at their November meeting at the Legion in Seaforth. Guest speaker, Stephanie Wilkinson, Territory Manager for Canadian Blood Services (CBS), spoke to the group revealing 100,000 new donors are needed to meet current blood needs.
Ironically, hardly one of the women at the meeting are allowed to donate blood given a CBS rule that anyone who has spent five years or more in Holland between 1980 and 2007 is not eligible to donate blood because Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD) (also known as mad cow disease) was found in the country during that time.
“It’s very frustrating because that criteria impacts a huge number of people,” admitted Stephanie. “But these are regulations from Health Canada we have to follow.”
However, Dutch immigrants who lived in Holland during that time can still donate blood to a family member and donate plasma instead of blood. Also, children of immigrants who didn’t live in the Netherlands during that time are eligible to donate blood.
Blood issues aside, the women of the HPWSA do want to give. They meet several times a year, combining informative speakers with social outings. They started the group in the early 2000s when immigration was at a peak and new Dutch, Swiss and other European immigrants banded to learn about agriculture in Canada.
Now, 15 years later, with immigration and numbers declining, dwindling, the need is different. The group is eager to reach out and invite all farm women to feel welcome. They’d love to learn from other farm women who could also benefit from interesting speakers and a night out with women who share a common interest in agriculture.
“We want this group to be a support for all women in agriculture,” says Marita Oudshoorn, who farms with husband Peter near Auburn.
“The group is growing older and we would like to attract the younger generation,” says Hedwig Kreuger who farms with her husband Fred, outside of Londesborough. “I have always gotten a lot out of the speakers. One of the most interesting ones we had was a funeral director. Canadian funeral customs are much different than they are in Holland!”
The group avoids political issues and focuses on agriculture subjects, with a mix of fun lifestyle activities.
They admit, somewhat shamefaced, that they tend to lapse into the Dutch language when socializing but certainly, everyone spoke English to Stephanie and me at the meeting. Their welcome was genuine.
This year’s slate of speakers includes Al Dam from OMAFRA to speak on biosecurity; Paul vanGerwin, a financial planner speaking on long-term disability and critical illness; and Jed Lau, a celebrity chef and teacher at Fanshawe doing a “Simply Cooking” demonstration. Salsa dance lessons, a card-making session and joint meeting with the Oxford Women in Support of Agriculture (featuring international speaker Elaine Froese) rounded up this year’s slate of activities.
At this meeting, Stephanie taught the women that Ontario is generally self-sufficient with blood supplies thanks to repeat donors. Canada does not import or export blood but provinces will share with each other as the need arises. Over 800,000 units of whole blood donations are required yearly. There are 36 permanent donation collection sites and 14,000 clinics conducted per year. Blood is collected six days a week.
“We never go more than two days without collecting blood and it is often transferred into a patient within five days,” said Stephanie.
Most patients do not need whole blood. Burn or shock victims are more likely to need plasma while trauma and surgery patients require red cells.
There are eight blood types of which O-negative is the universal blood type which can be given to any patient. Unfortunately, only seven per cent of the population has O-negative blood. Worse yet, O-negative patients can only receive O-negative blood while AB-positive patients can receive any blood type.
“We have one patient who required over 200 blood units in one day. Fortunately, he was AB-positive so they threw all they had at him,” shared Stephanie.
The most common blood type in Canada is O-positive at 39 per cent. The rarest is AB-negative with only 0.5 per cent of the population carrying this blood type. In between, the percentages are: 36 per cent A-positive; 7.6 per cent B-positive; seven per cent O-negative, six per cent A-negative; 2.5 per cent AB-positive and 1.4 per cent B-negative.
“Blood type O is the original blood type and in South America, most people test O. There are more B blood types in the United Kingdom,” said Stephanie.
Every minute of every day, someone in Canada needs blood and it takes more than one donor to help one patient. Patients with leukemia can need up to eight donors a week.
Sadly, less than four per cent of eligible blood donors sustain the blood system for all Canadians. Close to 40 per cent of all blood donors stop donating for 12 months or more due to a variety of reasons.
“About 100,000 new blood donors are needed every year to replace the aging donor base and maintain supply,” stated Stephanie during her presentation.
OneMatch is another way people can save a life. OneMatch is the stem cell and marrow network that matches volunteer donors to patients who require stem cell transplants. Volunteers are asked to be under 35 years old and to fill out the online application.
Chairperson, Marianne Veldman, was one of the original HPWSA members. She helped get the group started with the help of Canadian dairy farmer Virginia Warwick and Kate Monk, Stewardship, Land and Education Manager with the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority. She said the group encourages women to live to their full potential.
“I know when I had to stand up and speak at meetings 15 years ago, I was so nervous,” says Marianne. “Through this group I have gained a lot of confidence in leadership and public speaking.”
She is especially excited about this year’s activities saying the executive has been very cohesive this year. “It’s running very smoothly.”
New members are welcome to attend the monthly meetings, held mainly in Seaforth. For more information, contact Marita Oudshoorn at 519-955-2953. ◊