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Blood donors needed every day to meet needs

Staff report
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Alana Ladd-Ross, with United Blood Services, says the area is in need of blood donations due, in part, to a dramatic increase in population, coupled with medical and surgical advancements.
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Alana Ladd Ross has been with United Blood Services for the past 15 years, starting as a mobile recruiter before spending eight years in management. She is the donor recruitment supervisor for United Blood Services in Carson City.

United Blood Services is at 256 E. Winnie Lane. They are open Monday through Saturday and the fourth Sunday of each month. To schedule an appointment, call 887-9111.

Who is United Blood Services?

United Blood services is Nevada’s sole nonprofit blood provider, collecting, testing and processing more than 40,000 units of blood to hospitals and health-care facilities in Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra, including Carson-Tahoe Regional Medical Center, Washoe Medical Center, St. Mary’s and Northern Nevada Medical Center. We have been in the area since 1956 and will celebrate our 50th anniversary in August. As stewards of the community blood supply, it is our duty to make sure there is always a safe and consistent blood supply, keeping at least a five- to seven-day supply on each of the hospitals’ shelves.

Who does United Blood Services help?

Realistically, United Blood Services serves our community at large because each community member could conceivably require a blood transfusion at some time in their lives. Blood donation is used to treat cancer patients, accident, burn and trauma victims and people undergoing surgery. If you need blood, nothing else will do. People in the hospitals expect the blood to be on the shelf when they need it. With the help of the community, it will be.

Why is there a growing demand for blood?

A dramatic increase in population, coupled with medical and surgical advancements, makes it imperative we involve more donors. There are two people involved in the donating process, the donor and the recipient. All of our questions are mandated by the FDA and are aimed at protecting both donors and recipients. Therefore, the number of people who are unable to donate on any given day could be as much as 25 percent. These donors must be replaced with donors who are able to donate a viable unit of blood. Many of these deferrals are temporary, however, and these donors may be able to donate at a later period of time. But we still need at least 130 to 150 units a day to stay current between the Carson center, Reno center and mobile blood drives. The Carson City goal is between 20-25 units per day. Only with the cooperation of business, industry and civic blood drives sponsors are we able to keep up with the demand.

What is the difference between donating whole blood, 2RBC and platelets?

Whole blood is the most common blood donation. This donation is separated into three products – plasma, cryoprecipitate and red blood cells. The red blood cells are used for cancer victims, operations, accident and trauma victims. They have a shelf life of 42 days and are usually gone as soon as we get them out of processing. The plasma can be used for burn victims and the cryoprecipitate is used for hemophiliacs. Both of these products can be frozen and last up to one year.

2RBC is an automated procedure where we take the same amount of liquid as whole blood. However, we give you back your plasma and your nutrients, keeping compacted red cells. This is a much purer product for the hospital patient. If two units are needed it is better to get it from the same donor or they can go to two patients. Most hospital commitments are red cell commitments. The physical requirements for this process are that women must be a minimum of 5′ 5″ in height and 150 pounds. For men, the requirements are that they be a minimum of 5′ 1″ and weigh at least 130 pounds.

Platelet Pheresis is used for cancer victims or patients who need a clotting factor. If you cut your finger and get a scab, that is your platelets holding everything together. Pheresis is a two-hour process and only has a shelf life of five days. However, you can donate every two weeks.

Hospital patients do not always receive just one unit of blood. Many patients use anywhere from 3 to 50 units and some patients have used hundreds of units of blood.

What is it like to donate blood?

You check in at the reception desk and are called by one of our experienced phlebotomists. You go through an interview process and answer questions about medication you may be taking, travel outside the United States, and risk behavior. You are given a mini physical consisting of blood pressure/pulse, hematocrit (iron) level and temperature. The actual blood draw takes about 15 minutes for whole blood, 25 minutes for 2RBC and two hours for pheresis. After you donate, we ask you remain with us for 15 minutes while enjoying a light refreshment and juice. This gives us adequate time to ensure you are feeling well after donation.

What are the requirements for a person to donate blood?

Donors must be at least 17 years of age, weigh a minimum of 110 pounds and be in general good health. Most medications are allowed but the donor is asked to bring a list of all medications they are taking at the time of donation. We ask that you eat a substantial meal prior to donation and that you are well hydrated prior to donation (drink lots of water).

Can a person donate to a specific cause/person or their own surgery?

Yes. In order to donate for yourself (upcoming surgery – autologous donation) or to a specific person, the donor needs to obtain physician authorization. If the donation is a “directed donation” to another person, authorization is required from the recipient or the recipient’s family.

How can a person/group organize a blood drive?

Call our center at 887-9111. If you would like to plan a blood drive at your place of business or organization, United Blood Services will send a mobile unit to the site. This requires a minimum of 15 donors. If you prefer to organize an in-center donation time, we will set aside a block of time for your group to come in to donate at their convenience. We provide refreshments and will have a drawing for an assortment of prizes exclusively for your group.