Plasma donation gets a boost from Sikh Nation

Sikh Nation was already one of Canada’s largest blood donor groups. Now they’re also rallying to help patients with plasma.

September 27, 2021
Bunvir Kaur and her family with a photo of her father outside the plasma donor centre in Kelowna, B.C.

Bunvir Kaur, seen here at left with her nephew Benaik Singh, her brother Harvir Singh and her mother Dalbir Kaur, encourages plasma donation in honour of her father, Jadvinder Singh Nijjer.

After her father’s unexpected death this past summer, Bunvir Kaur wanted to honour him in a way that continued his legacy of service to others.

Very quickly, she settled on Canada’s Lifeline as a cause to support. Both she and her father Jadvinder Singh Nijjer had supported Blood Donation by Sikh Nation, one of Canada’s largest blood donor groups. For more than 20 years, Sikh Nation has partnered with Canadian Blood Services in a series of annual blood donation events in provinces across the country.

Sikh Nation recognized for contributions to Canada's Lifeline

Join Canadian Blood Services’ Partners for Life program

“About 20 years ago, my father had the opportunity to meet the founders at one of the Blood Donation by Sikh Nation campaigns held in B.C.’s Lower Mainland,” says Bunvir. “He was touched to see the impact they were making in the community and he felt in his heart that he somehow needed to get involved.”

In 2004, Jadvinder Singh organized Sikh Nation’s first campaign in his own community of Kelowna, with the help of local Sikh community members.

“As a youth, I accompanied my dad and volunteered in this campaign,” shares Bunvir. “Now, I hope to keep his dream alive of giving back to the community by continuing to organize the campaign in Kelowna.”

Plasma donation is another powerful way to help

Sikh Nation’s campaign in Kelowna is evolving to support patients in exciting and important new ways. That’s because last spring, Canadian Blood Services closed the blood donor centre in that community in order to open a new plasma donor centre.

Plasma is the straw-coloured, protein-rich liquid in blood that helps other blood components circulate throughout the body. While some donated plasma is transfused directly to patients, most is required as the source material for a variety of treatments ― manufactured products for patients with rare, life-threatening, chronic and genetic conditions. Demand for products made from plasma is surging in Canada and around the world, and plasma donor centres such as Kelowna’s are helping us meet that need. Others have opened in Sudbury, Ont., and Lethbridge, Alta., and more are planned for the Ontario cities of Ottawa and Brampton.

Plasma security and sustainability: learn more

What are plasma protein and related products?

Bunvir, her father and other volunteers learned about the plans for Kelowna in November 2020, after Sikh Nation’s last group blood donation event in the community.

“Canadian Blood Services invited Sikh Nation to an information session to learn more about plasma donation. I attended the session. After understanding that the process is similar to blood donation, we scheduled our first group plasma donation for this fall,” says Bunvir.

How does plasma donation work?

Canadian Blood Services extracts plasma from donations of whole blood, but at our dedicated plasma donor centres ― as well as at several other sites across Canada ― we separate plasma from other blood components during the donation process itself. 

In that donation process, the donor’s blood flows through a machine at their bedside. Their plasma is collected in a bottle or bag, and the red blood cells and platelets are returned to them. As a result, donors can donate plasma more frequently than whole blood. And by doing so, those in Kelowna and beyond play a vital role in securing a domestic supply of plasma for patients in Canada. 

Bunvir’s father had actually hoped to donate himself during the Kelowna plasma donor centre’s grand opening last June, along with Bunvir and other Sikh Nation members. Sadly, on the day of that event, the family was grieving his death.

“We were mourning the loss of my dad so we were unable to donate on the opening day,” shares Bunvir. “But a short time later, my brother Harvir did go out and donate plasma in dad’s memory.”

A few months later, the family is looking ahead to a Sikh Nation group donation event on Nov. 6 in Kelowna.

“This campaign is all about bringing people together by saving lives, and the partnership shows that the Sikh community is always willing to give back,” says Bunvir.

Where can I donate plasma?

Supporting plasma donation beyond Kelowna

Elsewhere in Canada, other members of Sikh Nation are also coming together to donate plasma. This past summer, members in Sudbury gathered for their first group plasma donation event, and to encourage the local community to join them in supporting Canada's Lifeline as plasma donors.

CTV News visited our plasma donor centre in Sudbury to speak with some of the generous donors from Sikh Nation who are helping to raise awareness about the importance of plasma donation.

Something else that unites members of Sikh Nation across the country is ties to India. Unfortunately, because India is a malaria risk area, those who travel to the country become ineligible to donate blood for a period following their return. However, it’s important to know that the eligibility requirements are different at our dedicated plasma donor centres, where donors are not deferred after travel to malaria risk destinations. This is because the plasma collected at our dedicated plasma donor centres is manufactured into specialized medicines that help patients with conditions such as immunodeficiencies and bleeding disorders. In the manufacturing process for these medications, pathogens in the plasma are eliminated.

Eligibility requirements for donating plasma, blood and platelets: learn more

Whether it’s donating blood or plasma or encouraging others to do so, members of Sikh Nation can take great pride in their incredible efforts to help patients.

“The Sikh Nation has been a proud partner with Canadian Blood Services for over 20 years and we hope to continue that partnership,” says Bunvir.

Plasma donors can help meet the growing needs of patients by booking appointments at any of our many sites across the country. Learn more about where to donate plasma, or book now by using the GiveBlood app, calling 1 888 2 DONATE, or at blood.ca.

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