Blood bank in need of donors

BUCKHANNON — Donating blood one time can save three lives.

So said the director of recruitment for the Central Blood Bank at the Buckhannon Rotary Club’s most recent meeting Tuesday.

Sherri Harrison told the club that the organization is in desperate need of blood donors, adding that the next blood drive to be held in the area is scheduled for April 10 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church. She encouraged Rotarians and other members of the community to either donate themselves or help recruit potential donors.

Based in Pittsburgh, Pa., the function of the Central Blood Bank is to supply hospitals with all the blood products they need for their patients in the Pittsburgh area, as well as parts of West Virginia and Ohio.

On Jan. 9, 2017, the Central Blood Bank entered into a contract with WVU Health Systems. Because St. Joseph’s Hospital operates under the umbrella of WVU Medicine, the Central Blood Bank is now the main provider of blood products for the hospital, Harrison said.

“As a part of that contract, we are to supply about 24,000 pints of blood to the hospital system a year, so that comes out to about 65 units of blood the hospital needs today and every day,” Harrison said.

Harrison briefed Rotarians on some facts pertaining to the blood donation process.

“So a little more about what we do – every 2 seconds, someone needs blood,” Harrison said, “and when you donate to the Central Blood Bank, it does stay in the area. We struggle, and we have to import about 40,000 units of blood into the area every year, so that’s a big piece of why we need to get the word out into the community to make sure that everybody is aware of the need.”

Donating blood takes about 45 minutes to an hour, and doing so can save three lives because the blood donated is broken down into three components – red cells, white cells and platelets. Each component typically goes to a separate patient, Harrison said. Primarily, platelets are used for oncology patients, while plasma can help burn victims, trauma victims, patients undergoing surgery and premature babies.

Harrison touted the advantages of becoming a blood donor.

“Something nice about being a blood donor is that we do a lot of testing,” she said. “Anytime somebody donates, they go through a series of 56 questions because we prefer not to take the blood if there are potential risk factors involved. That unit then goes to our laboratory where it is quarantined for 24 hours before a lot of testing is done – your HIV testing, your hepatitis testing and many more tests.”

Harrison said donating blood could potentially save the life of the donor if an irregularity or problem is discovered during the testing process.

“During that screening process, we catch a lot of things and anyone that donates with us would be notified confidentially if there’s a situation that they need to be aware of,” she said.

Harrison said the Central Blood Bank discourages direct donation, wherein someone requests that their blood go to a specific recipient.

“We discourage that because there is significant cost involved with that, and then there is the match factor,” Harrison explained. “I may want to give blood to you, but we may not be a match, and then that donation has to be discarded. We would prefer that people donate to the general community pool so it can be donated to the right person.”

Donors must be at least 16 years of age, and 16- and 17-year-old donors must obtain the written consent of a parent or guardian. While there is no maximum age to donate, the average blood donor is 51 years old, Harrison said.

“We have a very interesting demographic of blood donors,” she said. “About 25 percent of the blood supply comes from high school students. Where we miss is the working people. They’re busy, they’re raising families, so that’s why we do mobile drives; we come to you.”

The shelf life of a unit of red blood cells is 42 days, while the shelf life for platelets is only seven days, Harrison said.

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