We hear calls for blood donations all the time. Many people don’t make the effort to perform the act, possibly because there is not a sense of directly helping someone or changing a course of events. People underestimate the value of donating blood, but the simple fact is that the benefits of one ten-minute blood donation session could save a life. That should be motivation enough. We learn about transportation of blood around the body, but what actually happens to the blood after all blood donations are made to the blood bank. Where does it go and how is it stored?
Blood donations in the UK could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to travel around the country by medical courier. Last year UK blood donations at drives all around the country totalled approximately two million. Blood bags are stored overnight and transported to a processing facility early the next morning. Initially white blood cells from the donations are filtered off and then disposed of. Then each blood cell is divided into three parts: the red cells the plasma and the platelets. From the blood donations red blood cells need to be stored at 6 degrees Celsius for up to 42 days. Platelets are stored at room temperature in agitators for up to five days. Plasma and cryo are frozen and stored in freezers for up to one year.
In 2011 medical transportation for the NHS Blood and Transplant Unit moved 260,000 units of platelets, 388,000 units of frozen plasma, and 1.83 million units of red cells to hospitals in England and Wales. This gives an indication as to how many people are willing to donate to this extremely important cause. Centres around the country can always do with more blood donations and because all blood has an expiry date they desperately need a consistent flow of the life force.