Platelets, plasma needed from area blood donors
Based on their blood group and type, all blood donors possess a unique gift that assigns them a vital role in saving lives. Many people don’t know what their particular type enables them to do for patients in need, or how their generous donation can be maximized by matching their blood type to a specific kind of donation. Because of the unique characteristics of the AB blood group, donors with this blood type are best suited to donating plasma, a critical blood component used to treat trauma patients during times of emergency.
AB is the rarest blood group, with only about three percent of the U.S. population. Fort Gordon’s Kendrick Memorial Blood Center separates each whole blood donation into red blood cells and plasma, its main two components. Red blood cells, the component that carries oxygen throughout the body, are what people generally think of when they think of donated blood. These are the cells that make type O blood compatible with other types. In fact, type O blood is known as “universal” because it is safe to transfuse to anyone, making it commonly used in emergency situations before a patient’s blood type can be determined.
However, plasma is equally as critical as red blood cells. Plasma is the liquid part of blood in which the red cells “swim.” Plasma contains proteins and clotting factors that are extremely important to accident and injury victims, as well as surgery patients. Just like type O donors are “universal red blood cell donors,” type AB donors are considered to be “universal plasma donors.”
The ability to donate a specific component of blood, rather than donate a pint of whole blood which is a mix of all the components, is done through a special process called “apheresis.” Plasma, platelets and even red cells can be donated separately to provide a precise and powerful product that matches up with a patient’s needs, depending on the nature of their illness or injury.
During the apheresis process, the donor’s blood is drawn through a special machine that separates the components, keeping the targeted donation type, and returning the other components through the same needle. The entire process ranges from less than half an hour to a little more than an hour to complete, depending on the donor’s size and blood counts and the product being drawn.
An increasingly important part of the mission of Kendrick Memorial Blood Center is collecting AB plasma through apheresis because it is more concentrated and can be done more often than a traditional whole blood donation. A plasma donation done through apheresis can be done once every four weeks, whereas a whole blood donation can only be done once every eight weeks. After it is collected, the plasma is frozen to preserve the necessary factors and sent into theater, where it is used for critically wounded patients. Because group AB is rare and apheresis donors are a small percentage of the donor population, Fort Gordon is always actively seeking more AB plasma donors to join the cause.
One such donor who has stepped up to the plate is Pvt. Daniel Scott, a nodal network systems operator in training at Fort Gordon. The Portland, Ore., native has donated apheresis plasma three times during his training so far and plans to keep donating until he leaves Fort Gordon for South Korea later this fall.
Scott said he’s glad to know he’s helping others, and noted that the donation process was easier than he expected. During high school, he had several times initiated the process of donating but always changed his mind at the last minute. After joining the Army, he said, that changed.
“I was doing all of these other things that were out of my comfort zone,” said Scott. “I thought, why not do this really important one?”
After giving plasma for the first time, Scott decided to make it a habit, knowing that his blood type gives him a special ability to help by doing this specific type of donation.
“I realized that donating is actually comfortable, that it’s not a big deal,” he said. “Someone else needs my plasma much more than I do, and that’s what keeps me coming back.”
To find out which type of donation is most powerfully matched with your blood type, contact Kendrick Memorial Blood Center at (706) 787-1014 or visit us at www.facebook.com/ fortgordonbloodcenter. Platelet and plasma donors are always needed, and donors will receive a Certificate of Achievement for every two apheresis donations. Soldiers can earn promotion points from these certificates.