Why do some blood units have a different shade of red? There’s an AB blood type, why isn’t there an AO or BO blood type? How much does blood cost?
Those are a few of the smart questions that came from students in the CPR class from Fairmont High School during their tour of the Donor Room and Component Lab Wednesday, April 22 at Community Blood Center’s (CBC) downtown headquarters and Donor Center. CPR is about saving lives, and this visit was a chance for the students to get a different perspective on what it means to be a lifesaver. Two dozen students and their instructor Bob Franz went behind the scenes to tour the component lab, and they met lifesaving donors with impressive histories of lifetime donations.
The student tour began in the Donor Room, where they met whole blood donor Michelle. She had donated many times in Texas before moving to the Dayton area, and assured them the needle didn’t hurt in either state! They chatted with retired Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael O’Ryan who recently made his 100th lifetime donation. Michael told them about being a platelet and plasma donor, explaining how it’s an opportunity to help cancer patients. “Everyone knows someone who has been touched by cancer,” he said.
Also in the automated donation area they met William “Chip” Houghton, the owner of new and used book online and retail sales company. Chip was making a double platelet donation for his milestone 100th lifetime blood donation. He also assured them that the needed doesn’t hurt. They enjoyed hearing Chip talk about how he and a friend would donate whole blood together, in side-by-side donor beds, and compete to see who would complete their donation first. “We’d be squeezing like crazy, trying to fill that bag first!” he said. “We were so competitive!”
In the component lab they saw how blood donations are separated into red cells, platelets and plasma. They learned about the elaborate identification system and computer tracking that is so important for the screening of donors and safe testing of blood. They saw how white blood cells are filtered from the red blood cells; how platelets (the clotting component in your blood) are literally “shaken” constantly on automatic motion trays so they won’t stick together; they even walked into a freezer to see firsthand exactly how many units of blood are ready and available to supply CBC’s 25 partner hospitals and help patients in need.
Hospital Services Supervisor Sharon Wing was on hand to answer their thought-provoking questions. It turns out that blood has different shades because of the varying amount of oxygen in a donors’ blood. Why no “type AO or BO?” Blood types are defined by the presence or absence of two inherited antigens, A and B, on the surface of your red blood cells. You inherit either A or B antigens, both antigens, or neither. Though someone may have a combination A or B with O genotype, inherited from both parents, the A and B will be dominant over O. And what about the cost of blood? The answer was that CBC must charge hospitals to cover the cost of collecting, testing and processing blood. The price varies with the different and more specialized blood components needed.