I was recently invited by Renée Karsten, Local 12 President, to tour the Canadian Blood Services Bayers Road blood donation clinic and the production and distribution facility in Dartmouth. Having never had the courage to donate blood, this was an especially interesting opportunity.
At the Bayers Road clinic, I was able to walk around, observe, and chat with staff, donors, and volunteers. I was fortunate enough to be present for plasma, platelet, and whole blood donations. During my visit, I learned about the blood donation process, the tracking, and storage requirements, as well as the frequent training and retesting that the phlebotomists or donor care associates must undergo.
With that said, what I found most interesting and inspiring were the people that I met and the atmosphere of the clinic. I hadn’t realized it but I had unknowingly expected the clinic to be more like a hospital. I was surprised at the laughter, the welcoming atmosphere, and the friendships between the donors and the staff as well as with other donors.
During my time at the clinic, I observed quite a few people who donate on a regular basis. I asked one of the plasma donors what motivated her to donate. She said that her plasma donation was something that she was easily able to give, but that meant the world to someone else. She emphasized that it didn’t hurt, she recovered almost immediately, and that as a nurse she saw the daily impact of her donation. Watching this donor and her fellow plasma donors interact, tell jokes, share pictures, and call staff by name was something I had not expected. I had not anticipated that donors would develop a bond or sense of camaraderie with other donors, the phlebotomists, and the front desk staff, which include donor service representatives and program clerks. With the increasing pressures of life and demands on our time, I found it refreshing that the lovely folks at the Bayers Road CBS clinic were able to create such a welcoming and relaxed environment.
At the Dartmouth production and distribution facility, Renee gave me a tour of the warehouse and administrative offices. Upon entering the warehouse, I saw several ‘refrigerators’, which I learned are used to condition the specialized cooling plates that are used in regulating the temperature of the blood and plasma to keep them viable while they are in transit. I also got the opportunity to see inside the main part of the warehouse where everything from the juice boxes, gauze, to the computers and machines used to collect the blood and monitor the donors’ vitals are stored. Each item is meticulously tracked and accounted for to ensure that there is sufficient inventory for the permanent clinic at Bayers Road as well as the weekly mobile clinics. I quickly learned that these behind the scenes people, who work in Dartmouth, are the backbone of CBS’s operation. Their efforts to coordinate and monitor every little element is crucial to the success of the donation process and the donors’ level of comfort and thus their willingness to return.
After having a chance to tour both facilities, and learn more about the blood donation process, I have the utmost respect and admiration for the members of Local 12. Their dedication and hard work quite literally saves lives. However, I have been fortunate enough to witness a lesser acknowledged and more immediate result of Local 12’s hard work and that is that their efforts culminate in a seamless donation experience which results in returning donors. With the constant need for blood and blood products, happy donors are of the utmost importance and it is my opinion that the members of Local 12 are directly responsible for this success.