Winnipeg Filipino community encouraged to donate as part of October blood drive
Even if you’ve never donated blood, you’ve likely heard of the major blood groups: A, B, O and AB. In addition to these blood groups, people’s blood can be positive or negative for something called an Rh factor, for example making them O+ or O-. But did you know your blood type is even more complex than that?
“People think of just ABO and Rh, but really there are hundreds of different antigens,” says Dr. Gwen Clarke, head of the Rare Blood Program at Canadian Blood Services.
When giving patients blood products, it’s important to consider their blood group to give them matched and compatible products and prevent dangerous reactions.
On the surface of every red blood cell are proteins called antigens. While most patients in Canada who need a transfusion can be helped safely by considering their ABO blood type and Rh factor, some patients with unusual antigens or antigen combinations develop antibodies that could cause a dangerous immune reaction to the standard “off the shelf” blood products. Filipino donors are uniquely positioned to help patients who need a specific rare blood type called Jk3.
The rarer a person’s blood type, the more difficult it is to find a donor if that person suddenly needs matched rare blood for a transfusion. Canadian Blood Services’ Rare Blood Program strives to ensure that rare blood is available for anyone in need.
Canadian Blood Services is looking for donors of all ethnic backgrounds to help meet the needs of patients in Canada. Blood type is related to ethnicity, and types that are more common in other countries may be rare in Canada.
“It’s necessary from a medical and scientific perspective that our donors match our patients,” says Dr. Clarke. “People’s blood cells are not all the same, so diversity is really incredibly important.”
One of the more than 30 blood group systems is the Kidd system, which involves two proteins (Jka and Jkb). Almost everyone has one or both proteins on their red cells. A rare few, however, have neither. Their blood type, called Jk3, occurs in less than 1 per cent of people of Filipino and Polynesian descent. If someone has this rare blood type, it doesn’t cause any harm to their overall health. But if they need blood, they will need it to be matched from someone with the same rare blood type. Four to six patients in Canada need Jk3 blood each year.
Jk3 is one of the most difficult rare blood types to match, which is one reason Canadian Blood Services is always seeking blood donors of Filipino and Polynesian descent.
If both your parents are of Filipino descent, please check your eligibility online at blood.ca/eligibility. If you’re eligible, please book an appointment using blood.ca, by calling 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283) or by downloading the GiveBlood app.
Once you’ve booked, please email email@example.com with your full name and date of birth, as well as the date/time/location of your appointment. This will help us identify your donation for additional testing. If your blood is Jk3, we will send you a letter to inform you. Even if it’s not, you are a match for another patient in need and we hope that you will continue donating.