Seeing Green in Blood

The holidays are here and that means one thing at the blood banks at Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital – a lean time for donations.

“Around most holidays, demand goes up and supply goes down,” said Megan Roache, Lab Manager at CCH.

Donating blood at this or any time of year helps your neighbor, since all blood donated to the Cape Cod Healthcare system stays right here on Cape Cod. And donating also helps the company, because every time the hospitals have to buy blood from one of two main suppliers, it costs money.

“It’s unbelievably expensive,” said Julie Medeiros, Blood Bank Supervisor for C-Lab at FH. Testing, storage and transport costs add up to a purchase price of about $250 per pint of blood, she said. Multiply that by the 7,000 to 8,000 units used each year at CCH and the 3,000 units FH typically uses in a year, and the picture becomes clear.

The annual CCHC budget for blood products is about $2.4 million, Roache said.

When the cost of testing and storing donated blood at the hospitals is added in, the hospitals end up saving about $125 a pint when it is donated.

The Gift of Life

The four full-time Donor Room employees at CCH go out 1-2 times a week for community blood drives. The Room is open three times per week for walk-ins. At CCH, several in-house blood drives are held each year. At FH, 4-5 blood drives are held annually on site.

Donating blood takes about 45 minutes. Donors fill out a questionnaire before having their blood pressure, temperature and iron levels checked. The actual blood draw takes 5-10 minutes, with a recovery time of about 5-10 minutes as well. Donors are given fluids, snacks and everyone gets a prize, Roache said.

Donating blood is actually good for the body, Roache said. The bone marrow is forced to create more blood when you donate, sort of a healthy re-booting exercise.

CCH is a Blood Bank, meaning it actively collects and separates blood into usable products. FH’s lab is a transfusion service only.

Donated blood is separated in a centrifuge by lab technologists at CCH into two products – packed red blood cells and fresh frozen plasma. Red cells are used for anemia and elective and emergency surgery, and for massive blood loss due to trauma. Plasma is used for burn victims, and for bleeding disorders. A third blood product, platelets, is purchased by the hospitals. Platelets need to be kept moving at all times, so they are stored in a small incubator at room temperature on a shelf that continually agitates the product.

Prior to separation and use, donated blood is quarantined for viral testing. It then goes on lab shelves at CCH and FH for active use. The hospitals use blood for surgery, trauma and other cases. Open heart surgery at CCH is a routine user.

Lab and Donor Room managers have become more creative, and are trying to come up with more imaginative ways to urge employees to donate, said Pat Cabana, Director of C-Lab. While the system’s cost savings is important, the most important reason to donate is to help your neighbor, she said.

For outside blood drives, the Donor Rooms send emails and postcards to past or potential donors. In the hospital, posters and emails are used.

Medeiros goes right to employees’ heartstrings. During a major drive last year, she put it quite simply in an email. “When you give blood, you give hope, you give life.”

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