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Behind the doors of a major blood donation center


I pint of donated blood/Kathlyn Stone

Blood. It’s one of those things you take for granted until you or someone close to you needs some in a hurry.  About one in three people will need donated blood at some point in their lives.

During a tour of Memorial Blood Centers in St. Paul, MBC Medical Director Jed Gorlin, MD, educated local junior and hign school students, their parents, and medical school students and pathology residents about the work of one of the state’s three largest blood donation centers. The others are the Red Cross and the Mayo Clinic.

Barely a drop of the blood donated by 14,000 Minnesotans monthly goes unused. The drawn blood is separated into use for the red bloods cells, which can be stored 42 days, for plasma, which can be frozen for up to a year, and for platelets which can be kept five days.
Jed Gorlin, MD, medical director of Memorial Blood Centers, used the I-35 bridge collapse as an example of a local disaster where donated blood was needed. K Stone

Nationally, about 5 percent of Americans donate blood. Minnesotans donate at a slightly higher rate, 7 percent, but much lower than the 12 percent of Canadians who are blood donors.

Before donating, volunteers are asked to complete a questionnaire. Some of the things that might disqualify you from donating are recent travel to countries where there are high rates of communicable diseases and your medical and lifestyle history. Once a donor passes the screen, the actual blood draw only takes 7 to 9 minutes, Gorlin said.

All blood undergoes FDA-regulated screening. The 12 screening tests for HIV, West Nile Virus, and other disease and antibodies take eight hours to complete before the blood can be distributed to hospitals throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska.

MBC encourages donors to start early (must be at least 17 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds, or 16 with parent’s consent) and make donating blood a lifetime habit.

Besides collecting, testing, storing and distributing blood, MBC provides blood screening and analysis for national clinical trials and processes hematopoietic cells used in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

People who donate don't do it for monetary gain. There is no financial compensation but copious thanks and locally baked cookies.  

For more information:

Memorial Blood Centers Personal Testimonies

Blood Donation Frequently Asked Questions - AABB
(formerly the American Association of Blood Banks) 

My Blood Your Blood (for students) – American Blood Centers

America’s Blood Centers