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January is National Blood Donor Month


An abundant and safe blood supply is critical for hospitals to do their healing work. That is why Covenant Health makes it convenient for employees to give the gift of life, a donation of blood, something that cannot be replicated or synthetically simulated.

Karin Whitten, Covenant’s transfusion safety coordinator and blood drive coordinator, broke down the statistics and other information for us for National Blood Donor Month.

Covenant offers five blood drives in a calendar year, withCovenant Medical Center’s being two days each, with one-day drives at Covenant Women’s & Children’s. Each drive sees about 50-60 individuals helping to save lives with their donations. Donors can give whole blood every eight weeks.

“Offering the blood drives on our campuses makes it easy for them to give here at work instead of having to make time to go to United Blood Services at 48th and University,” Whitten said.

Beverly Brooks, regional director of medical records, is a blood drive regular.

“I donate every blood drive,” Brooks said. “It’s very convenient, one of the many ways to give back to our patients. It is part of our mission and values at Covenant.”

What happens next?

“All of the blood has to go back to UBS to be processed and tested,” she continued. “Our average use between CMC, CWC and Specialty Hospital is about 150 red blood cells per week.

We also average about 30 platelet pheresis per week, but we don’t collect those at our drives. Those have to be donated at the blood center – they can always use more of those donors!”

Whitten said there is no guarantee that the blood will come back to Covenant and not go to one of the other 48 hospitals that UBS supplies in the area, but statistically we do get most of it back for our patients.

Qualifications for donating

According to Whitten, there are a few new requirements for being a donor. The basic requirements are here. The most basic constraint is based on age and weight, which determines a person’s blood volume.

“During the screening process, a mini physical will be performed. They will check your blood pressure, pulse, temperature and stick your finger to check your hemoglobin (iron) level,” Whitten said. “You also will have to answer a series of questions about your health history, travel history and high-risk behavior history. These have to be answered for every donation, no matter how many times you have donated. After all of that and you have met all requirements, then you are ready to donate.

Leonard Gilliard, talent development specialist at Covenant, has been a consistent donor for five years.

“I donate blood because it’s one way to contribute to the community. Having blood drives at the hospital is extremely convenient and it doesn’t take long at all,” he said. “For those who’ve never donated, just go with a friend or contact UBS to find out how the process works.”

After the donation the next step in the process is testing. The blood center is required by regulation to test each unit for ABO/Rh, unexpected antibodies, HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, Syphilis, West Nile Virus, HTLV, Chagas disease, and now they are required to test for Zika virus.

Can I give my donation to a certain person?

Whitten said a donation can be “directed” to a specific person, but the ordering physician has to fill out a prescription/form for UBS. Then the recipient/patient has to approve that person as a donor and put that particular person on their list for directed donations. Those donors would then have to go to the UBS facility at 48th and University to donate the blood so that all of the paperwork gets done and the unit gets marked for that patient. UBS also offers what they call “credit to patient” options for local patients. In this instance, the patient does not necessarily get that unit but for every five units given in the patient’s name, UBS will pay for one unit for that patient.

“This helps replenish the blood supply if there is a patient that uses a lot of blood products during their hospital stay and gives people a chance to not only help that patient but other patients that might need a blood transfusion,” Whitten said.

To find out more about becoming a blood donor or to find a blood drive near you, visit the United Blood Services website.

This post is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please seek medical advice from your physician for any related medical condition. If you are in need of a primary care doctor, click here to find one in the Covenant Health network.

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