Every drop counts when it comes to blood collection.
“We need about 800 units a week just to sustain the Health System needs,” says Nancy Hendrick, with Lee Memorial Health System Blood Center.
Each unit equals one pint of blood, one donation that can help save several lives. It’s processed into different components- including red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma and platelets. A job that starts here and ends here.
“These are platelets. They have to stay rocking, stay agitated, otherwise they will clump and they’re ineffective for transfusion,” says Jeremy Puckett, blood technician with Lee Memorial Health System.
Collecting and processing blood donations is an intricate procedure with multiple safety systems built in to protect recipients.
“There’s lots more tests on every unit. Way back in the 70’s they did just random batches of testing so now every single unit is tested,” says Hendrick.
“These are the ones that we are actually going to process today. We get them from the donor, they come in they sit for 12 hours, we take a bacterial detection sample off them,” says Puckett.
Once it’s proven safe, the blood goes through a filter system and into a centrifuge to begin separation.
“Your red blood cells are heavier so when the bags in there is spinning it will pull all the red blood cells to the bottom you have the plasma on top which is mainly water with some clotting factors in it. That gives us our two products,” says Puckett.
The science of blood processing has given it a longer shelf life. Red blood can be refrigerated and stored for up to 42 days. Platelets are held up to five days. Plasma can stay frozen for a year.
“This is the plasma that is ready to go out. They have a water bath that’s kept at a constant temperature. Thaw the unit, then they’re able to send it up to be transfused,” says Puckett.
Blood products are used by accident victims, surgery patients, people with cancer. Each drop potentially life saving, but a drop in the bucket for the average adult.
“The majority of people have a pint of blood for every 25 pounds they weigh. Your body reproduces very quickly, your body is making new red blood cells every day,” says Hendrick.