You gave a life-saving gift in a matter of minutes. You donated blood and changed a life. But how? What happens after you donate blood and leave the clinic, walking out with a tasty cookie as a snack?
Here’s What Happens After You Donate Blood:
Before your blood can go through the testing and processing phase, it’s very important that it gets iced right away in a cooler. Keeping blood at the right temperature is key to preserve it’s eligibility to be used in transfusions.
It Gets Processed
The blood collection bags are intricately processed based on the donated time. Then your samples are sent for laboratory testing. You may not have been sick when you donated, but your blood is still tested for all kinds of viruses and bacteria. The possible risks of carrying any potential infections need to be tested before transfusing.
Then Your Blood is Separated
Your whole blood donation does not stay together. Technicians separate your blood into three different components: red blood cells, plasma, and platelets. This process is intricate and timely.
Sorted: RBC, Plasma & Platlets
Red blood cells, platelets, and plasma are separated by the method of spinning the blood at high speeds in a centrifuge. This is not done in a matter of minutes or hours but days. They’re then sorted into their corresponding groups.
Red Blood Cells
The red cells are one of the first compositions separated from the whole donation. These will be put in a fridge and kept ready for patients with chronic anemia, kidney failure or gastrointestinal bleeding. Victims of a brutal accident who are also in need of a transfusion are another type of recipient to benefit from a red blood cell transfusion.
However, hospitals are always in need of more blood donations because the red blood cells only last for 42 days in the fridge. Since it is used for a variety of purposes, it is the most demanded with the least supply.
The second composition is plasma. Plasma comes out as a yellowish color instead of red and needs to be flashed frozen. It gets solidified in about 45 minutes and can last up to a year. Plasma is used entirely different than the red blood cells.
Burn victims, trauma patients and people with liver disease are the main recipients. Patients who have multiple clotting deficiencies are also plasma recipients.
While the red blood cells are being kept cool in the refrigerator and the plasma is quickly tossed into the flash freezer, your blood platelets don’t mind sitting undisturbed for an hour or so. After they are left untouched in a tray for an hour, they are then placed in a machine to gently be swayed in order to prevent clumping.
The shelf life of platelets is the shortest amongst the three: 5 days. They are typically used in cancer patients or rushed to an operating room for an organ transplant.
However, if your test tube sample comes back positive for any infectious diseases like HIV, then your donation will be discarded. This is why it is highly important to be tested for such diseases before you donate any blood.
If your tube comes back negative of any infections, then it is off to save some lives to hospitals all around the nation. You can be sitting at your work desk in Florida while your blood is being transfused to a patient in Washington.
Your Blood Then Gets Tested
This actually occurs during the processing stage. The lab will test each tube of blood and perform about a dozen tests to establish blood type and look for any potentially infectious diseases.
Test results get transferred to a processing center electronically within 24 hours. If a test result is positive for anything, it will be discarded and the donor will be notified (test results are confidential and only shared with the donor, except in circumstances when required by law).
Store That Blood
Once the results are received and the blood is cleared, the units are ready to be stored. Each group is stored in a different method:
Red Blood Cells are stored in refrigerators at 6ºC for up to 42 days.
Platelets are stored at room temperature in agitators for up to 5 days.
Plasma is flash-frozen and can be stored in freezers for up to 1 year.
The blood is taken to distribution centers and is available to be shipped out to hospitals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some hospitals keep blood units on their shelves in case of emergencies. Sometimes they’ll call in for more at any time in the case of large scale emergencies.
Transfusion: It’s Time To Save Lives
This is the final stage in your blood’s journey. It’s been through quite a system at this point and now it can potentially save someone’s life. Here’s an example of what happens next:
An ill or injured patient arrives at a hospital or treatment center
Physicians will determine whether they require a transfusion, and which type they need.
The physician will then order the correct type and issue orders for the patient to be given the blood/plasma/platlets.
Blood transfusions are given in a wide range of situations such as car crashes, surgeries, anemia, blood disorders, cancer treatments, childbirth, and many many more.
Patients suffering from iron deficiencies may receive red blood cells to increase their iron levels and hemoglobin. This helps to improve the amount of oxygen in the body.
If a patient is unable to make enough platelets such as due to chemotherapy, they may receive a platelet transfusion rather than a blood transfusion. Plasma is commonly used for patients with severe infections, burns, or liver failure.
Now You Know What Happens After You Donate Blood
It’s a comprehensive process that starts the minute you leave the donation clinic. Many of us never know who, what, when or how many lives will be saved with our blood. There’s one thing we know for sure, donating blood is one way we can do our part to help save the life of another.
If you’d like to donate blood, you can go online to www.redcrossblood.org today.