The Business of Blood Banks: donor to recipient process

The Business of Blood Banks: donor to recipient process

It is referred to as "red gold in times of saving a life," and it is an adage often used by those who work to encourage blood donations.

Blood banks rely on your donations to keep up with demand, but it is a complex business. We take you inside LifeShare Blood Center in Lake Charles to find out the process of what happens after you give.

Every two weeks for the past 12 years, Cyndi Khoury spends an 1 1/2 hours donating blood platelets through a machine at LifeShare Blood Centers.  "I am thanking God for my health by giving something to someone who needs it so badly," she said.

This month marked a milestone in Cyndi's giving: 25 gallons of blood. "We are a community, and we have to donate to ensure that all members of the community will have what they need when they need it," she said. 

For Cyndi, the donation hits close to home. She has given to her own sister during her final weeks with cancer and helped a little girl in her church, transfused with the platelets she personally gave. "She sat on one side of the church with her grandmother, and I sat on the other side," said Cyndi, "but we were connected."

Faithful donors like Cyndi know a critical shortage of blood means critical patients needing blood could die if the supply fails to meet demand. Dana Dupin works to ensure this blood center has blood and a steady stream of donors for every blood product. "They can donate either a platelet, a platelet and a plasma, platelet, plasma, red cell, any combination thereof, based on their blood type," said Dupin.

Life emergencies, like crashes, fires and natural disasters force a constant need for blood.  LifeShare also contracts with hospitals to provide units for surgeries, deliveries and transfusions.  "They know what procedures will be scheduled ahead of time, so they know the products that any physician or doctor will need for whatever surgeries they may have," she said.

Don Humble supervises the reference laboratory and says real, human blood is the only lifeline for patients in need. "We cannot depend on a machine to manufacture it and spit it out. We have to have actual blood donors," he said.

Blood products are rarely wasted. LifeShare is a resource-sharing facility, and if patients in Southwest Louisiana do not need the blood, the staff will find the people that do. "It reaches around the world," said Humble. "Of course, we take care of our community first, but we do get requests from all over: New York City, we've sent blood to Puerto Rico before, we've sent blood to California."

The shelf life for blood products is about five days. The only way to keep the drawers from becoming empty again is for donors to keep giving. "I'd like to hope that it's going to be there if I need it," said Cyndi, "especially my husband and daughter. You leave knowing you've done the best thing in the world."

Once a donation is complete, a minimum of twelve tests is required to ensure the blood is safe.  Tests come at a cost. So who pays for that process and what is a standard fee to receive blood in a hospital?  I will break down the financial workings of the blood bank business Thursday night at 10 p.m. during the KPLC 7 News Nightcast.

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