Penn Med blood center seeks donations from community
The Blood Donation Center collects blood donations from Penn's community every month
April 23, 2012, 9:42 pm · Updated April 27, 2012, 4:24 pm·
Normally, nurse Meghan Maloney makes her rounds at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. But today, she lays in bed, a needle connected to her arm. She assures the other nurses that it doesn’t hurt at all. In fact, she’s smiling as she donates blood.
Since Nov. 2009, Penn Medicine’s Blood Donation Center has supplied the hospital with blood cells and platelets from members of the Penn community.
According to blood donor coordinator Barry Overton, donors include HUP staff, vendors, visitors and anyone else who enters the building and qualifies as a donor. These donations are used exclusively for patients being treated at HUP.
The center has five beds, a television that patients can watch movies on while they donate and a centrifuge to separate blood and platelets cells. Overton also offers donors small gifts, such as thermoses.
“Platelets are especially valuable because many sick patients need them,” Overton said. These patients include those with leukemia and other types of cancer whose blood, because of treatment, are not able to clot properly.
Additionally, whereas whole blood can be frozen and stored indefinitely, platelets can’t be refrigerated, and must be used within five days of collection.
For most months, the center’s goal is to collect 100 units of blood and 10 units of platelets each month. Every month, the center solicits specific departments within HUP to donate. April is the nurses’ month.
While the center often falls short of their goals, they achieved it in March and the forecast looks good for April, Overton said.
The center will soon be increasing its goal to 150 units and hopes to partner with other professional health care organizations.
“Although, these products are used exclusively for Penn Medicine patients, this initiative helps bring some relief to the enormous burden that local blood suppliers have in trying to provide blood products to over 200 hospitals on a daily basis,” he said.
Director of Transfusion Medicine Donald Siegel established the center in 2009. “His word and daily experience with the struggles of ensuring that products were available for [patients at HUP] was enough for senior leadership to approve,” Overton said. The donation center was opened with funding from the Philadelphia Antiques Show.
HUP is the single largest user of blood products in the country, using 60,000 units per year. If the center makes quota, it supplies approximately two percent of that product.
According to Overton, many hospitals don’t have donation centers and receive their blood products from the Red Cross.
Red Cross spokesperson Anthony Tornetta added that whether or not a hospital has a donation center depends on its size and location. Generally, large hospitals in big cities are more likely to have them.
One reason why not every hospital has a center, according to Overton, is that the centers are expensive and complicated to run. Also, many hospitals don’t see the need for one because they can purchase blood products from Red Cross.
Products collected at the Blood Donation Center are not meant to replace, but rather to supplement, products purchased from Red Cross. That way, HUP will be prepared if there are blood shortages. Overton added that as FDA criteria for blood collection organizations become stricter, there may be less blood to go around.
“It’s important for all eligible donors to donate,” Tornetta said. “The need is constant. Accidents happen. It’s important for people to get a second chance at life.”
Having a local blood donation center may increase the number of donations on campus. For Nursing sophomore Megan McMonigle, who usually donates blood at home and at blood drives, the center is convenient.
“Knowing there’s a donation center at HUP, I’d probably donate more,” she said.
This article has been revised to reflect the following corrections: the center solicits departments within HUP to donate blood, not the Perelman School of Medicine and criteria for blood collection centers are set by the FDA, not the Red Cross.