Blood. It’s one of those things you take for granted until you or someone close to you needs some in a hurry.
Jed Gorlin, MD, medical director of Memorial Blood Center, in front of a sign honoring donors.
During a tour of Memorial Blood Centers in St. Paul, MBC Medical Director Jed Gorlin, MD, educated MTS Connections Academy charter school students and 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 is frozen, and for platelets which can be kept five days.
Gorlin used the I-35 bridge collapse as an example of a local disaster where donated blood was needed.
Minnesotans, always above average, donate at a higher rate than the U.S. average, 7 percent versus 5 percent. Before donating, you’re 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 you’re your medical and lifestyle history.
All blood undergoes strict 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.
Besides collecting, testing, storing blood and distributing blood, MBC provides blood screening and analysis for national clinical trials and processes hematopoietic cells used in patients undergoing chemotherapy.
William “Mint” Kunkel, MBC donor liaison, thanks a Connections Academy student for volunteering to donate blood. “I’m the Mint, but you’re the lifesaver,” Kunkel says by way of introduction while handing out white Lifesavers candies to new donors.
MBC encourages donors to start early (age 16 with parent’s consent) and make donating blood a lifetime habit.
Andrew Borne, Connections Academy math teacher, donates blood to MBC regularly. He’s donated about 10 gallons so far.
People who donate receive no monetary compensation but copious thanks, recognition and locally baked “Cookie cart” cookies.