If you have ever donated blood, you may wonder what happens to blood after donation. You might have a general idea that it helps other people. But how?
Let’s take a look at how the blood gets from you to other people in need and who exactly it might help when it gets there.
Donating blood is the first step in the donation process. You may already be familiar with it. A medical professional takes your medical history and conducts a physical of sorts. They may take your blood pressure, pulse and temperature. They also make sure you aren’t anemic by measuring your hemoglobin levels.
Finally, they collect the blood. It’s usually a pint. They usually also take some extra tubes of blood for testing. Once the process is finished, they put the pint of blood on ice while it’s transferred to a processing center. The tubes go to the lab.
Processing and testing blood
At the processing center, your blood is placed into a centrifuge. This allows medical professionals to separate the red blood cells, plasma and platelets as many people may only need to have certain parts of the blood transfused.
Once it’s all separated, each component undergoes even more processing. For example, white blood cells are removed from platelets and red blood cells. Otherwise, the person who receives the transfusion could have a bad reaction.
Then, all of your donation information is entered into a computer database, and the final blood products are packaged.
In the meantime, those test tubes full of your blood go to the lab. Your blood is tested for its type and to make sure you don’t have any diseases that can spread through a transfusion. These include hepatitis, West Nile virus, HIV or syphilis. If you do test positive for these diseases, your blood is thrown out. The lab will also contact you to let you know.
Storing and distributing blood
After your blood is processed and tested, it goes into storage in a refrigerator, agitator or freezer:
- Plasma can be stored in a freezer for a year.
- Platelets are good for up to five days.
- Red blood cells can be kept in a refrigerator for 42 days.
Some blood is typically stored at hospitals for emergencies. But it is available for 24/7-delivery from the organizations, like blood banks, that store it.
Blood transfusions typically happen in hospitals, doctors’ offices and clinics. When a person needs one, their doctor will find out their blood type so the person receives the right kind of blood.
When it’s ready, a nurse or other medical professional will insert a needle into a vein in the hand or arm. Blood flows from a bag, through a tube and into the vein. The average transfusion takes about four hours.
Who needs a blood transfusion?
There are many reasons why a person may need a blood transfusion.
In the emergency room, a trauma patient may have lost a lot of blood and need an urgent replacement. This can also happen during surgery when a patient loses more blood than usual.
Cancer patients who are undergoing treatments like chemotherapy may receive regular transfusions because they can’t produce their own blood. People with chronic conditions, such as sickle cell anemia, liver disease or kidney disease, may also need regular transfusions because their bodies don’t produce enough of all the components of blood.
Why Should I Donate Blood?
Patients who receive transfusions aren’t the only ones who benefit from donating blood. The donors themselves may as well.
It may improve your mental health by:
- Improving your emotional well-being
- Providing a sense of belonging or community
- Reducing stress
- Removing negative feelings
You also get a free health screening. You may go to donate blood and learn that your blood pressure is high or that you are anemic. You may also find out whether you have a disease or not when your blood is tested in the lab.
We are in the middle of a national blood shortage. If you are able to, please consider becoming a blood donor at one of our partner facilities today.