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Ask the Doc

September, 2011 • Published in The Daily Press, Ashland WI

Q: My friend was recently in a motorcycle accident. He’s already undergone several surgeries, with more to come, and has little-to-no insurance. As a regular blood donor, I was wondering how he might go about requesting donations so he doesn't have to pay for so many units?

Thank you for your inquiry and for your loyalty as a blood donor. Your support and concern for your friend is inspiring and we wish you both the very best.

The short answer to your question is that you are already helping your friend by making regular blood donation part of your life. If you are searching for ways to do more to help, you may consider asking your friends, family, and co-workers to donate blood as well. You may also ask your employer and the organizations you support to host more blood drives each year. (Donations of whole blood can be made every 56 days, or about 6 times per year.)

More specifically, your question relates to what is called ‘directed donation’, when a single individual makes a blood donation designated for a specific recipient. The donor is selected by the recipient and the directed blood collection is ordered by the recipient’s physician.
While Memorial Blood Centers does make this process available, the reality is that it’s not a cost-efficient method of blood collection and distribution. It actually costs more to manage a directed donation than a regular donation. Directed blood products must be tracked and separated from the ‘regular’ blood supply throughout the process – from the time the donation is made, through testing and preparation, to the hospital’s blood bank and, ultimately, to the operating room for the patient. In addition, if for any reason the directed donation is not used during surgery, that blood cannot be used for any other patient. It would then have been “wasted” and be unavailable to save or sustain the life of someone else in need of that gift.

Memorial Blood Centers and other blood centers across the country continually work with the community and with hospitals to ensure a safe and adequate blood supply. The nation’s blood centers no longer operate blood “banks” as they once did when, for example, our agency was founded in 1948. We then received “deposits” made by individuals, friends, and family members for a specific patient. Over the years, however, it has become very clear that the best way to achieve a stable supply of blood is by garnering support from the entire community.

More and more also is now known about blood compatibility. Often abbreviated ABO, everyone’s blood falls into one of four groups or types: A, B, AB or O. And while patients with type AB+ are universal red cell recipients who can receive red cells from all blood types, every other blood recipient must be safely matched to a blood donation by type. In addition, each patient has a different type of need: some need platelets or plasma, others red blood cells. It is usually not possible for individuals, friends, or family to donate the right blood products that are of the right blood type in advance of a surgery, especially if there is an emergency.

Memorial Blood Centers partners with hospitals to supply blood for patients in need, but we do not directly influence what hospitals charge for blood transfusions. With the support of volunteers like you – as well as companies and organizations that sponsor blood drives, and financial contributions from individuals and organizations – we are, however, able to help control the cost of collecting, testing, preparing and transporting blood. As your community blood center, when you donate blood, coordinate a blood drive, or encourage others to give to Memorial Blood Centers, you help us collect the blood and blood products that are needed at hospitals every day.

Thank you again for donating blood and helping both your friend and so many others in the community in need. Please encourage others to donate, too, at one of the following drives in the Ashland area:

Monday, October 3
Northwoods Community Credit Union
11:30 AM - 3:30 PM
Contact Stephanie at 715-682-9099 ext. 3, or sign up online: Sponsor Code 3710

Contact the sponsoring organization directly to schedule your donation appointment. Or, making an appointment online also is easy and convenient. From the MBC.ORG home page, click the Schedule Now button, and enter the Sponsor Code listed above for the drive where you would like to donate. You also can search by zip code for another community blood drive near you or make an appointment at one of our Northland donor centers, including at Essentia Health in Superior or Burning Tree Plaza in Duluth.

Jed Gorlin, M.D. is Medical Director and Vice President, Medical and Quality Affairs for Memorial Blood Centers. Elizabeth Perry, M.D. is Associate Medical Director for Memorial Blood Centers.

Send us your questions at askthedoc@MBC.org. Call us today 1-888-GIVE-BLD (888-448-3253) to schedule an appointment, or to find out more about Memorial Blood Centers and how we partner with the Ashland community to save lives.