Students often ineligible to give blood due to body art



Art Fundamentals student Joyce Chau prepares to book an appointment with the Canadian Blood Services.

Art Fundamentals student Joyce Chau prepares to book an appointment with the Canadian Blood Services.

Half of all Canadians will either need a blood donation or know someone who does. However, only 4 per cent of Canadians donate blood.

“The reason people aren’t donating, I guess, is because people aren’t asked and people need to be asked or want to be asked to donate,” said Josie De Leon, event coordinator in Oakville for the Canadian Blood Services. “And that’s why it’s important that we’re asking people who are in good health to come out and donate blood.”

Giving blood is simple and only requires a few minutes.

“It’s basically the easiest way you can give something,” said Joyce Chau, an Art Fundamentals student. “It doesn’t cost anything. It takes less time than donating hair. It took me three years to grow it long enough.”

You must be 17 years old to donate. If you are between the ages of 17 and 23, you must meet the height and weight requirements, and can use the online calculator to determine eligibility. The Canadian Blood Services has a high turnout of young people but what they’re encountering is that students want to donate and are in good health but they aren’t eligible to donate.

“A lot of them do want to donate, but they can’t because of ear piercings and tattooing and that eliminates them from donating,” said De Leon.

You can’t donate blood within six months of getting a tattoo or piercing because of the risk of spreading infections.

Potential donors are asked about recent travel, due to the risk of being infected with diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, to protect the blood recipients.

“Before donating, they will test your iron level at the clinic and it must be 125,” said De Leon. “It’s a simple process. You come to our door, you donate and then you’re done.”

People living with Sickle cell disease, which is genetic, are among those who benefit greatly from blood donations.

“It affects every system of the body, all the organs, the liver, the spleen, the heart,” said Lanre Tunji-Ajayi, president of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Canada and founder of the Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Ontario.

Sickle cell anemia is one of the most common forms of this disease.

With this disease you have sickle cells and they are stiff and sticky and slightly deformed. They can block the blood flow toward your limbs and organs, causing pain and damage to them.
The most common method of treatment for someone with severe Sickle cell anemia is by blood transfusions.

“Some patients need regular blood transfusions, which are called continuous blood transfusions, while others need them on an occasional basis,” said Tunji-Ajayi.

It is crucial to spread awareness about Sickle cell disease, as blood transfusions are necessary for many who suffer from this disease.

“It is so important to donate blood,” said Tunji-Ajayi. “So many people need blood and they aren’t getting it when they need it.”

One of the issues due to the lack of blood donations is that people who need blood are having blood transported from other communities because there isn’t enough in their own.

“Who is going to give me blood is the big question,” said Tunji-Ajayi. “This is how you give back to your community and help others.”

Students who want to donate can visit the Canadian Blood Services website ( to determine their eligibility.