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The Simplicity of Donating Blood
With an hour of your life, you could save the lives of many needing blood and platelets. This is the process.
Publish Date: 09/24/09
Media Contact: Katie Pence, 513-558-4561
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UC HEALTH LINE: What Happens When I Donate Blood?

CINCINNATI—It’s almost as easy as walking in and filling out paperwork. Then, you get a cookie.


And save a life.


Hoxworth Blood Center needs a minimum of 350 volunteer blood donors and 40 platelet donors each day to meet the needs of patients in the community, and Ronald Sacher, MD, director of the center, and his team are asking you to help them meet this goal.


“Approximately an hour dedicated to donation could save the lives of those who need a blood transfusion due to an automobile accident or elective surgical procedure,” he says.


In July, a bill was passed in Ohio allowing 16-year-olds to donate blood with the consent of a parent.


“We are very pleased with this new legislation,” Sacher says, noting that it opens up the pool for those who are willing and able to donate blood and platelets.


On Tuesday, Hoxworth Blood Center launched a regional campaign initiative called “100,000 Donors, 100,000 Heroes” to help increase the number of donors in 2009-2010.

The initiative will encourage individuals to become heroes through the act of blood donation and meet the needs of patients in the community.


But what can donors expect and what happens during the donation process?


After completing the formalities of registering, filling out a health questionnaire and having vital signs checked, any healthy citizen can donate. Hoxworth also offers the “double-red” donation, where donors can give two units of red blood cells instead of one unit of whole blood.


The double-red donation is done in the same way as a whole blood donation except total volume is slightly less because the remaining components—platelets and plasma—and saline are returned to the donor’s system.


The process begins when a nurse places a needle in a donor’s vein. Blood from the vein flows into a diversion pouch where it is collected for infectious disease testing against agents such as syphilis, AIDS, hepatitis, West Nile virus and more. This pouch also captures the small amount of skin that is picked up when the needle is inserted, which significantly decreases the risk of bacterial contamination that may be caused by germs on the skin.


Once the diversion pouch is full, it is clamped off and blood flows into the whole blood collection bag, which usually takes about seven to 10 minutes. The unit is then sent to the laboratory for processing.


Whole blood is mixed with an anticoagulant at the time of collection to prevent clotting. A centrifuge—or rotating machine—is used to quickly separate the whole blood into red blood cells and plasma.


The red blood cells and plasma are further processed to create the individual components of red cells, platelets and plasma, which can be used for treatment in a number of situations such as following chemotherapy and trauma.


White blood cells are also removed to prevent certain types of recipient transfusion reactions.


However, Sacher says these collections don’t last forever.


“Red blood cells only last for 42 days and platelets only last for five days,” he says. “We need a consistent stream of donors to keep our supplies fresh and ready for patients in need at any given point.”


In order to give blood or platelets, donors must:


·         Be at least 17 years old or 16 years old with parental consent

·         Weigh at least 110 pounds

·         Generally feel well and healthy


Sacher adds that individuals with certain medical conditions or those who have traveled to certain areas of malarial risk may not be able to donate.


“The whole process takes about an hour—not much time in the whole scheme of things,” he says. “It’s simple. Bring a buddy or your favorite book. Sit back, relax … and save a life.”

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