Las Vegas Sun

October 20, 2017

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5-minute expert:

So you want to be a blood donor?

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Some blood types are compatible with different types. For instance, O- is considered the universal blood type because it can be given to patients with all eight types. People with O- blood, however, only can receive O- blood.

Roughly 6,000 people a month donate blood in Southern Nevada. With each pint collected, as many as three lives can be saved.

Las Vegas’ blood bank needs 250 pints per day, and the need generally is met.

But blood supplies are low locally and nationally, and need typically increases in summer — when tourists invade town and the likelihood of mishaps increases.

“There is no substitute for blood,” said Paul Milakeve, donor recruitment manager at United Blood Services, which has three locations in Southern Nevada. “Everyone relies on volunteer blood donors. It’s a relatively simple and painless process.”

Donating a pint of blood typically takes 5 to 10 minutes. The entire process, with health screenings and wait time, takes about an hour to 90 minutes.

Last year, United Blood Services collected 93,683 units of blood in Nevada, about 60,000 of which came from Southern Nevada.

If you pass the screening, you’ve reached the phlebotomy stage, meaning it’s time to retrieve your blood. The phlebotomist inserts a needle into a vein on your arm. The needle is attached to plastic tubing that transports the blood to a collection bag. A “whole blood donation” is 1 pint. The retrieval process typically takes about 10 minutes.



What to bring

If you meet the qualifications for donating blood, bring the following to the donation center:

• ID, such as a driver’s license or work or school ID

• A list of all countries, including cities and regions, you have visited within the past 12 months

• A list of any European countries you’ve visited since 1980, including travel dates



United Blood Services asks you NOT to donate if you:

• Have cold or flu symptoms or don’t feel well on the day of donation

• Had hepatitis after your 11th birthday

• Have used a needle to inject drugs not prescribed to you

• Are at risk of exposure to HIV

• Have in the past 12 months had close contact with someone who has clinical hepatitis

• Have a history of cancer in the past 12 months

• Had a blood transfusion, piercing, acupuncture, accidental needle prick or have come in contact with another person’s blood in the past 12 months

• Got a tattoo applied in certain parts of the world in the past 12 months

• Suffered malaria previously or traveled to a malaria risk area in the past 12 months

• Are pregnant or have been pregnant in the past six weeks

• Have been treated for syphilis or gonorrhea in the past 12 months

The blood donation process

1

Blood donors go through a short screening, typically about 20 minutes. Potential donors must give basic information, including name, date of birth, address and phone number, then fill out a health questionnaire, outline recent travel and answer questions about their sexual history. Staff then conduct a mini physical, examining a donor’s heart rate, blood pressure and iron levels.

In Las Vegas, basic donor qualifications include being at least 17 years old and weighing at least 110 pounds.

2

If you pass the screening, you’ve reached the phlebotomy stage, meaning it’s time to retrieve your blood. The phlebotomist inserts a needle into a vein on your arm. The needle is attached to plastic tubing that transports the blood to a collection bag. A “whole blood donation” is 1 pint. The retrieval process typically takes about 10 minutes.

3

The phlebotomist takes out the needle and bandages the entry point. Blood donors must stay on site for at least 15 minutes so staff can make sure no complications arise. Donors are encouraged to eat cookies, pretzels and crackers and drink juice and water to replace the lost liquid volume. Donors should avoid strenuous physical activity for the rest of the day and eat a hearty meal. As the donor heads home, the collection bag already is being labeled and processed.

4

Staff take a test tube-sized sample of the blood and air ship it via FedEx to Phoenix for testing. The testing determines the blood type and screens for diseases and antigens, substances in some blood that can trigger an immune response.

There are four blood types: A, B, AB and O. Each is classified by an Rh factor, a protein on the surface of red blood cells that is positive or negative. For a blood transfusion to be successful, blood from the donor and patient must be compatible. Incompatible blood can cause complications or death. People inherit their ABO blood grouping and Rh factor from their parents.

5

While testing is completed, the collection bags wait in temperature-monitored refrigerators at the United Blood Services main building in Las Vegas. Once staff receives the green light that the blood is safe, the collection bags are distributed by van to 30 hospitals in Southern Nevada, northern Arizona and Needles, Calif. Deliveries happen all day, every day.

Last month, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a proclamation declaring April 25 Nevada Blood Donation Day to raise awareness about the need for blood donations. That day, United Blood Services will host mobile blood drives at the following locations:

• Integrative Family Medicine, 6045 S. Rainbow Blvd., Suite 100, Las Vegas; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• Centennial Hills YMCA, 6601 N. Buffalo Drive, Las Vegas; 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

• Aliante Library, 2400 W. Deer Springs Way, North Las Vegas; 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

• Hope Central Ministry, 3665 N. Nellis Blvd., Las Vegas; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

United Blood Services’ three Southern Nevada locations also will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• 6930 W. Charleston Blvd., Las Vegas

• 601 Whitney Ranch Drive, Suite 20, Henderson

• 4950 W. Craig Road, Las Vegas​

60 percent of United Blood Services’ Southern Nevada donations comes from mobile blood drives. Want to host a mobile blood drive? Contact Paul Milakeve, donor recruitment manager at United Blood Services, at pmilakeve@bloodsystems.org or 702-304-6547.

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