Blood, indispensable to life, has increased in importance in the delivery of health care today. It is vital, therefore, that the quality and safety of blood and the products derived from it are assured and that they are readily available in sufficient quantities. Each year, millions of units of red blood cells are utilized for the survival of thalassemia patients worldwide.
Thalassemia patients and their families around the globe wholeheartedly appreciate the selfless act of kindness and express their gratitude for blood donors every day of the year on social media and other channels, and often in person at blood donation campaigns. This appreciation for the gift of life is amplified on June 14th World Blood Donor Day and resonates around May 8th during commemorations for International Thalassemia Day.
Thalassemia disorders are inherited blood disorders where the patient’s body does not produce sufficient red blood cells that are essential to deliver oxygen to the brain and other parts of the body. Patients living with the severe form of thalassemia have life dependency on regular red blood cell transfusions, which over the long-term causes iron overload. If untreated, iron overload results in progressive organ dysfunction and premature death. Thalassemia patients, in some cases, have undergone liver and heart transplants to survive.
In addition, many of these patients suffer from comorbidities such as heart and liver disease, pulmonary hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis and bone deformities, and endocrine complications, all of which are at high risk of terrible consequences in case of infections.
Thalassaemia syndromes occur widely throughout many parts of the world. It is most common across southern Europe from Portugal to Spain, Italy, and Greece, in several Eastern European countries, the Middle, the Indian subcontinent, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and southern China.
The treatment of thalassemia today has enhanced the quality of life for patients and extended life expectancy, however, there is still no cure for this debilitating disease. Bone marrow and stem cell transplants offer successful possibilities for young patients and have demonstrated many favourable outcomes. Matching options and donor base remain limited for many cases.
Gene therapy and genetic engineering have promising prospects for curative therapies for thalassemia and the successful experiences in the USA and Europe are very encouraging. Also, an innovative medication that significantly reduce the blood requirement for thalassemia patients has been approved recently in Canada. Even though these are imminent novel therapies, it remains to be a major challenge to reach manageable sustainable access to such ingenious disease enhancement and curative options.
The current goal remains to be ensuring secure access to safe blood products for patients who are most in need of them specially at times of critically low inventory levels.
Thalassemia Foundation of Canada has partnered with Canadian Blood Services to help make a difference in the lives of hospital patients in Canada in 2021. To support our efforts, please help spread the word about the need for lifesaving blood at hospitals across Canada. We welcome you, your friends and family to join our blood donors’ team today and quote Thalassemia Foundation ID- THET0093129 when registering for blood donation.