'The gift of life': Half of stem cell donors on list don't follow through: Canadian Blood Services

It is a life-saving procedure - stem cells made possible from the help of donors are in need.

The Canadian Blood Services says that only half of those on the list will actually follow through with stem cell donations.

Despite everything she is facing, Hillary McKibbin is a cheerful seven-year-old-girl.

"We’ve been doing amazing," says Hillary.

She is full of laughter and smiles, and seems to not let her rare blood disorder, Aplastic Anemia, bother her.

"I don’t produce as much blood as a normal human body might have."

Like so many other patients in Canada, Hillary may need to rely on stem cell donors, and donor drives; the kind you’d see filling up community centres and arenas - but, that can’t happen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The need for matches and donors is still there. Kelly McKibbin is Hillary’s mother, "We have so many people around us fighting for their lives - searching for a match."

Canadian Blood Services has moved their efforts for donors to sign up online because of the COVID-19 restrictions prohibiting large in-person drives.

"Our biggest recruitment method has actually been affected," says Dr. Heidi Elmoazzen with the Canadian Blood Services.

"It’s a rewarding experience to know that you’ve saved somebody’s life," says Dr. Elmoazzen. The trouble is, half of those on the list don’t follow-through with a donation, according to Canadian Blood Services - and that slows down the process.

"Every time there’s a delay, and somebody not following through, we now have to find another donor and go through that whole process again," says Elmoazzen; "This really just adds time in order to find a match for a patient in need of a stem cell transplant, and sometimes this is time that a patient just doesn’t have."

If you’re prepared to make the commitment to be a stem cell donor, you can register online. A testing kit will be mailed to you.

Hillary has a message for people thinking of registering to be a donor.

"That's the gift of life."