Navigating the Blood Drive

Aug 24, 2014

Although blood donations are a critical part of the healthcare system, many of us have never given blood.  While the American Red Cross and similar organizations work very hard to promote blood drives, they give less information regarding the specifics of the procedure and what to expect after walking into a clinic. 

This week on "Take Care," Dr. Patricia Pisciotto describes the blood donation procedure and the possible conditions that can prevent people from donating.  Pisciotto is the chief medical officer of the American Red Cross Northeast Division.

Click 'Read More' to hear our interview with Dr. Pisciotto.

Pisciotto believes that education is “one of the most important” parts of the process.  Information packets are given to donors to learn more about giving blood.  They are then requested to complete a health history form, which consists of about 50 questions.  These questions help the workers at the clinic determine whether a potential donation will be safe for both the donor and the patient.  

Because people may not always remember their health history correctly, Pisciotto says that “they can always call back and give us the information if they had forgotten to say something at the time of the donation.” 

After the health history form is completed, a basic physical is administered, which checks body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and weight. 

Certain restrictions can prevent donors from giving blood.  These restrictions include age, weight, medications, disease, travel, and unregulated tattoos.  In addition, although people may be truthful in filling out the health history questionnaire, their blood may test positive for a disease after it has been donated. 

After a person has passed the screening process, they are allowed to donate set levels of blood. The typical amount of blood donated is a pint.  Those who donate a pint are required to wait 56 days before making another donation. 

Pisciotto says that “once the unit is collected and it comes into the manufacturing site, we spin it down into the different components.”  These components include red cells, platelets, and plasma and are shipped to hospitals after being separated.    

In the event that a family member needs blood, Pisciotto says that another relative can make a directed donation to the patient.  Directed donations require the same screening process that regular donations do, and sometimes a more detailed examination may be required.

Despite the many components of the screening process, blood donations typically last an hour and are easily done during the work day.

And, most organizations give you free cookies after you give blood.