Blood Donation | So Others May Live

“Hello. Is Jim there? This is Pat from the blood center.”

“Just a minute, Pat. I will get him for you.” said Melanie.

I told Pat I would check my calendar and call back to make an appointment.

About every 8 weeks like clockwork, the DeGowin blood donor center at the University of IA calls to make an appointment to donate platelets. The process is different from donation of a pint of whole blood. If you have never donated platelets, you might be interested in knowing what this procedure is like. If you have never donated blood at all, please consider doing it. I’m not going into great detail about the procedure. Just the basics. Why is blood donation important?

I arrived for my appointment and parked in the nearest ramp. Our blood center pays for the parking as a way to encourage donors to come in. The blood center is right across the driveway and up one floor. I made my way to the check in desk and said hello to Pat. She was glad to see me again. She is a familiar face at the desk and has greeted donors for many years.

One of the nurse-phlebotomists escorted me to a private room so I could complete the questionnaire about my recent history. It has about 50 questions related to general health, diseases I might have had or been exposed to, out of country travel, had I been tattooed, sexual activity, medications, and whether I had read the informational materials. I opened the door when I was done and was joined by the nurse who would be with me for the donation. This time it was Craig.

We made some small talk and caught up on a few things since last time. He asked when I had my last meal. Craig asked about the out of country time a few years ago from the question form. He cleaned a finger-tip and poked it with a lance to draw a few drops of blood. The small vial would check to see if my blood was up to standards. Only one time has it found my hematocrit was borderline. That time I was told not to donate. He checked my temperature and blood pressure. When he left the room, Craig said to use the restroom and get something to drink or eat from the next room. He would join me when the blood vial was finished.


My blood sample was fine. We headed into the larger room with several donation couches and machines next to each about the size of a dishwasher. I laid back in the couch and got comfortable. It was warmed and felt very cozy. Craig checked the printout from my blood sample test machine and entered them into the large machine next to my couch.

This image is very close to what it looked like. It is often called an apherisis machine. The automated blood collection system takes blood from one arm of a donor, puts it into a centrifuge, removes the desired component, and returns the remaining blood to the arm. That cycle is repeated many times with small collections from the arm. At no time is the donor ever missing much of their own blood volume.

My time connected to the machine was a little more than 60 minutes this time. I have been connected up to 90 minutes. The amount of time depends on what blood components they are collecting and what condition the donor’s blood is in. The components that can be collected are platelets, plasma, and red blood cells. Each blood component has a different density. When spun in the centrifuge at several hundred to a few thousand revolutions per minute, the parts separate out into layers. These layers are extracted and collected into bags hanging on the machine.

During the donation, I had opportunities to visit with the nurses, watch TV on a small screen lowered in front of me, read, listen to music, etc. Everything that needed my hands was limited to one hand. But, someone was always happy to help with anything like turning a page, etc.

When I was finished, Craig removed the needle from my arm and bandaged it well. He checked my blood pressure and pulse again. He asked if I was feeling fine. Then, he thanked me and released me to the room for some liquids and snacks for 10 minutes or so. After that, I went to the front desk and got a parking pass from Pat. I was on my way home. The whole process from start to finish was about 90 minutes, a little shorter this time.

If you are able, consider giving the gift of blood at your blood center. If you are a donor, thank you for your help. It is a way you can actually save the life of another person.


8 thoughts on “Blood Donation | So Others May Live

  1. Melanie in IA

    When my dad was alive he used many units of blood products donated by other people. One thing he asked for was that people give blood if they could. As you say, it is a way pretty ordinary people can be heroes, saving lives.

  2. jeanneban

    This was very interesting, Jim. I am not a regular blood donor, but this motivates me to go give it a try.

  3. Mrs. P

    Thanks for this post. It has been many years since I have donated blood. I am happy to see the safety precautions have advanced quite nicely. If I ever need blood, I am confident that the quality will be good. You have inspired me to donate again.


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