Giving the gift of life is easier than you think. Donating blood or signing up to a bone marrow registry will take only minutes of your time but has the potential to make a substantial, sometimes lifesaving, difference to the lives of others.
Donating blood is a simple process that does not consume a lot of time, yet the importance of it to others can be life changing. Cancer patients, sickle cell patients, surgical patients, accident victims, orthopedic and obstetric patients are just a few who benefit from donated blood.
The HSA Blood Bank at the Cayman Islands Hospital collects over 1,000 units of blood per year. In terms of gallons, that is over 120,000 gallons, and more is needed.
There are some criteria for the public who wish to donate, which are in-line with international standards and not imposed only in the Cayman Islands.
Donors must be at least 18, or 17 with parental consent, weigh more than 110 lbs, and be fit and in good health. You will find out for sure if you are eligible to donate on the day after a mini physical exam and health history questionnaire and tests for hemoglobin and blood pressure, which aim to protect both the donor and future recipients of the blood.
Certain medical conditions, and previous or present residence in health risk areas, such as malaria endemic areas, may exclude potential donors. Persons who visited or lived in the UK between Jan 1, 1980 and Dec 31, 1996 for a cumulative time of 3 months, or received a blood transfusion in the UK or France since Jan 1, 1980 are excluded from donating blood because of the risk of transmitting variant Creutzfelt-Jacob disease (vCJD) for which no test is available for detection. The same also applies to those who lived in or visited the rest of Europe from Jan 1, 1980 to present and spent a total of five years or more there, including time spent in the UK.
Blood is collected by a venipuncture into plastic bags containing a liquid anticoagulant preservation solution. Around a pint of blood is generally collected, which takes between 5 to 10 minutes for completion. Three test tubes of blood are also taken for routine testing.
Once the blood is collected, it is spun to prepare Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFP) and Packed Red Blood Cells (PCs). Packed cells are stored in a Blood Bank refrigerator between 2 to 6C and FFP at -18C or lower in a Blood Bank freezer. Collected blood is stored for 35 days.
Routine tests are performed on the blood to ensure that it is safe for transfusion and won’t transmit any infectious materials. These routine tests include ABO and Rh group, Red blood cells antibody detection, HIV, HTLV, Hepatitis B and C and Syphilis.
The HSA recommends donors have regular meals and drink at least 16 oz of fluids 30 minutes before donation to help prevent fainting. After donation, the donor will be given some fluids to quickly replace the lost blood volume, and be told to rest for about 15 minutes under observation. The donor will also be told to continuously drink fluids throughout the rest of day, forego any strenuous activities, such as jogging or weight lifting, not smoke or drink alcohol for a few hours after donating and not to lift heavy items using the affected arm.
The HSA Blood Bank is located on the second floor of the Cayman Islands Hospital, in front of the Paediatric ward. Opening hours are Mon – Fri 7 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., and Sat 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. For more information call 244-2674 or visit bloodbank.ky. Appointments can also be scheduled online, which reduces possible wait times.
Bone marrow and stem cell transplants are often necessary for leukemia and sickle cell anemia patients, as well as those with other blood disorders.
There are two methods of donating bone marrow and stem cells for these purposes. Donors either donate peripheral blood stem cells by receiving a treatment to stimulate the production of these stem cells in their body. They are then harvested by a non-surgical procedure to draw blood from the donor’s arm, and the blood is then passed through a machine to remove the specific white cells and return the rest of the blood to the donor’s body.
For bone marrow transplants, donors undergo a minor surgical procedure on their pelvic bone under anesthesia, where liquid marrow is removed with a needle. The marrow replenishes in 4-6 weeks.
The Cayman Islands Cancer Society has partnered with the DKMS registry to recruit bone marrow and stem cell donors.
The diverse mix of ethnicities and genetic makeup in the Caribbean region makes it difficult for those in need of a donor to find a match. More people signing up to the registry will increase the chances of a match as matches are more likely in those who share the same ethnic background or ancestry.
Joining the registry involves filling in a registration form and having a cotton-tipped swab of cheek cells taken. The process takes 10 minutes and could change or save someone’s life in our region in the future. People aged between 18-60 and in good health can register, and the Cayman Islands Cancer Society covers the $75 cost of registration although welcomes donors to cover the cost if they are financially able. The registration cost covers the kit, postage, lab work and addition of results to the DKMS.
In the event that donors are matched with an individual in need of a marrow, stem cell transplant or product therapy, more testing will be done and consent needed to proceed.
Community donor drives offer a place to find out more and to register, and companies, churches, organizations or other groups can arrange for drives to be set up at their facility.
While mass-collections and registrations are preferred, eager individual would-be donors can visit the Cayman Islands Cancer Society between 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. Mon – Fri to register.
For more information contact the Cayman Islands Cancer Society on 949-7618 or email email@example.com.
Organ donation does not yet exist in Cayman, but will in the near future. The Human Tissue Transplant Law, 2013, which guides organ donations, has been gazetted but is not yet in full force as regulations are currently being drafted.
The Human Tissue Transplant Law, 2013, establishes a Human Tissue Transplant Council for the purpose of monitoring the donation of tissue by living persons and the removal of tissue from deceased persons; regulates the collection and use of human tissue for medical purposes; regulates commercial dealings in human tissue; and for incidental and connected purposes.
The gazette can be found at
The Ministry of Health is aiming to develop a set of Human Tissue Transplant Regulations to govern human tissue donations and transplants, which will allow for the law to be commenced. This work requires the convening of a Human Tissue Transplant Legal Subcommittee.
In March 2018 the Ministry requested public comment of proposed regulations by May, after which the regulations will hopefully be finalized, a date for the law to come into effect will be set, and Cabinet will appoint the Human Tissue Transplant Council, responsible for the creation of a human tissue donation register.