Holiday blood drives are in full swing. And it's one of the most important gifts you can give.
The process of collecting blood hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years. Justin Miller with the American Red Cross said gravity essentially still does most of the work, “...the needle goes in in the arm, [blood] comes out of a tube and into a bag,” he explained.
What has changed, he said, is the science that keeps the blood supply safe.
“We also take a series of test tubes," he continued. "Those get shipped off for testing for a number of different things just to make sure that ultimately, the blood is going to be safe, to go to a patient”
Donations are screened for blood type, plus a variety of infectious diseases like Hepatitis, HIV, and COVID-19, among others.
“While that's happening, the blood is in what we call a quarantine, if you will, and it gets manufactured," Miler said. "It goes from that whole blood that was collected and separated out into the many different products that ultimately can be used. So, whether it is red blood cells, platelets, or whether it is plasma, that manufacturing process happens while that blood is in quarantine,” he said.
The process takes just three to five days, according to Miller. Once the blood clears quarantine, it gets sent out to hospitals. In the seldom case a test is positive, Miller said the donation is discarded and the donor is notified.
The Red Cross provides 40% of the nation’s blood supply and has the nationwide infrastructure to get blood to wherever it’s needed most. Although a nonprofit, the Red Cross does sell and make money on donated blood. As do other blood donation centers...if you're willing to donate, there are several nonprofit and for-profit organizations out there to choose from.
If you decide to donate to the Red Cross, Miller said you can track your donation in real time using the Red Cross Blood Donor app.
(Photo: Courtesy of redcrossblodd.org)