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Ep. 167 - LiveWell Talk On...Blood Donation (Suzanne Felton, MT(ASCP))

episode 167

Ep. 167 - LiveWell Talk On...Blood Donation

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Host: Dr. Dustin Arnold, chief medical officer, UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's Hospital

Guests: Suzanne Felton, MT(ASCP), manager, St. Luke's Laboratory

Dr. Arnold:
This is LiveWell Talk On...blood donation. I'm Dr. Dustin Arnold, chief medical officer at UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's Hospital. While many might celebrate national braille literacy month in January, it's also blood donation month. A time to celebrate the lifesaving impact of blood donation as well as platelet donation. And joining me today is Suzanne Felton, laboratory manager at St. Luke's, to discuss blood donation, the blood giving process, blood types, and more. Suzanne, welcome to the podcast.

Suzanne Felton:
Thank you for having me.

Dr. Arnold:
So Suzanne, take me through the blood donation process. I'm going to go donate blood, just walk me through it.

Suzanne Felton:
Well, usually the first thing is being prepared. So being well hydrated, well rested, and of good health. And the whole process takes about an hour. When you first present, you need to have a photo ID and some basic registration information. And then you start the pre-donation screening, which includes blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, hemoglobin check. And then they'll go through your donor history questionnaire, which might ask you about travel, your health history, or any other factors associated with an increased risk of infection that could be transmitted by blood. So then when you get through all that, then you get to go recline in a chair, they will cleanse your arm, perform the phlebotomy, which only takes about 8 to 10 minutes for the donation. And then you will receive fluids and snacks afterwards.

Dr. Arnold:
A couple questions. Is it always one pint donated?

Suzanne Felton:
It's 350 milliliters, is what it is total.

Dr. Arnold:
Okay. And how often can I give blood?

Suzanne Felton:
You can give blood every eight weeks.

Dr. Arnold:
Okay. I'm a doctor, I think I understand hematology. How does a cookie help you after you've given blood? And I'm pro-cookie, so I don't want any listeners to think I'm anti-cookie. Pro-cookie, frosted sugar cookies are truly the best treat. But is that just, is that really just to say, well, here's a snack or is it really to drive up the blood glucose?

Suzanne Felton:
I think it's probably a combination of both. You know, you're supposed to eat before coming. That is an important part of it. And so it just probably helps everybody when having that drop in volume, to replace it right away and get that nourishment in there.

Dr. Arnold:
Do you provide frosted sugar cookies?

Suzanne Felton:
Well, I don't know what Impact Life always provides. I think they have a choice of different snacks, but I doubt every time there is a frosted sugar cookie.

Dr. Arnold:
Well, you might want to pass that on to them. I think they would have much more blood donated if they advertise frosted sugar cookies. What do we do with the blood after it's donated?

Suzanne Felton:
So after the donation, it goes to the blood donor center where they check it for testing. So you have blood that's drawn for direct testing to make sure that there's no infectious disease. And then it gets broken down into different components. It gets centrifuged, so the plasma is removed. And it also is taken through a process that the whole blood is leukocyte reduced, so that there isn't leukocytes, or white blood cells, in the blood. And those components, different things can happen to them depending on what the need is of the donor center, what their greatest need is at the time.

Dr. Arnold:
So is it possible if I donate, they keep both my plasma and my red cells?

Suzanne Felton:
Yes, for sure. They will—

Dr. Arnold:
Okay, so it's not just one or the other.

Suzanne Felton:
Yep.

Dr. Arnold:
Okay, awesome. So if I donate blood, they can use both my red blood cells and my plasma cells?

Suzanne Felton:
Yes. So the plasma will get separated and depending on what they need with the plasma, they could make cryoprecipitate or other components with the plasma.

Dr. Arnold:
Is all blood, you mentioned that they filter out the white blood cells, is all blood products filtered for white blood cells?

Suzanne Felton:
Yes well, some products that are collected, like platelets, go through a pheresis process. Most of the time platelets can be collected that way. So they already are white blood cell reduced with the component part, the component prep part of it. And then when they take off the plasma, they have already separated and the whites are not part of the plasma product.

Dr. Arnold:
Okay, so it's really redundant for a doctor to order leukocyte reduced red blood cells, because they're all leukocyte reduced.

Suzanne Felton:
Yes. That's very common now. At least that is always what we purchase, is leukocyte reduced red blood cells. But there could be variations throughout the US or other practices out there.

Dr. Arnold:
Okay. Now you mentioned Impact Life, that is our vendor or the blood collection vendor. How big of a service area do they cover?

Suzanne Felton:
I think they are at least in three states.

Dr. Arnold:
Wow.

Suzanne Felton:
If not four. I know they're in Illinois and Missouri for sure, besides Iowa.

Dr. Arnold:
So even if the Red Cross does a blood drive, does it go to Impact Life?

Suzanne Felton:
Not necessarily. They sometimes do purchase blood from other vendors, if there is a need. They do all work closely together, but Impact Life does try to sustain their own blood supply.

Dr. Arnold:
And in your observation when there's shortages, is that across the country that it just cycles like that? Or are there some regions that always have a lot of blood and some that don't? Or, is it pretty balanced?

Suzanne Felton:
Usually it's pretty balanced. I would say if there is a natural disaster or something specifically that is happening in a region, that will specifically impact that region. That might not be across the United States. But I would say during holiday times, there is across the board usually a high demand because of the lower collection volume that's occurring.

Dr. Arnold:
Okay. And how, if I donated blood today, how long would they keep that around?

Suzanne Felton:
It is good for 21 days.

Dr. Arnold:
Okay. Even if it's frozen, then they pitch it, or?

Suzanne Felton:
That is a special process to freeze blood and they would only do that with very specific, unique type blood product.

Dr. Arnold:
Okay. Well, speaking of unique, what is the rarest blood type?

Suzanne Felton:
Well, most blood bankers will tell you that the blood type that is the rarest is what we need and we don't have it.

Dr. Arnold:
That's a great answer.

Suzanne Felton:
Yes. But by the population, AB negative is only 1% of the US population.

Dr. Arnold:
Sweet, that's mine. So I'm rare.

Suzanne Felton:
You are.

Dr. Arnold:
I think some people would agree with that probably. Not always in the best circumstances, perhaps. And then you said O negative, or O positive is the most common?

Suzanne Felton:
O positive is the most common. That's about 39% of the population.

Dr. Arnold:
Okay. You know, I want to give a little shout out to your leadership of our transfusion medicine committee and the role you play in that. And you've been phenomenal, but I want listeners understand that, you know, we look at blood transfusions and make sure that blood's being used appropriately. Because it is such a precious resource. I know you've heard it. I've said, and I read it sometimes, it's not my saying. But you know, it's a liquid organ transplant. I mean, it's a serious situation to give someone blood. And we need to really prioritize that because as you indicated, sometimes it can be short. And also the work we've done with Jehovah's witness and coming up with a protocol for people that may not want blood. So I think that's been some great work that we've done. You said it goes down during the holidays. How long does that last, this drop?

Suzanne Felton:
Usually I would expect it to last three to four weeks. And COVID has definitely impacted blood donation as a whole. It's not necessarily that more blood is being used, but because of the restrictions that businesses, schools, community drives, those have all been impacted by this. People working from home so that they're not at their workplace, that maybe they had a blood drive. So overall donation numbers are down across the US and we're definitely feeling it more often, that constraint on our blood supply.

Dr. Arnold:
Now we had a recent employee blood drive didn't we?

Suzanne Felton:
Yes we did.

Dr. Arnold:
And how many units did we collect there?

Suzanne Felton:
We collected 59 units.

Dr. Arnold:
Wow.

Suzanne Felton:
And that was a great drive. We've had a at least 70 in the past, but for the demand right now on our healthcare employees, I think it was a great turnout and definitely it is helping through the holidays and the few weeks beyond while that blood will part of our inventory.

Dr. Arnold:
And another, I guess correct me if I'm wrong, but we use about 200 a month?

Suzanne Felton:
Yes. We've gone to between 180 to 200 units a month.

Dr. Arnold:
Yeah. That's kind of interesting trivia on that one. So if community member listeners want to donate blood, how do they go about that?

Suzanne Felton:
They can go to www.bloodcenter.org, that is Impact Life's, which is formally Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, that is their website. And you can find a link about setting up an appointment to donate.

Dr. Arnold:
Okay. Two last questions. The first is blood related. Are vampires real?

Suzanne Felton:
Well, I think there's some believers definitely out there.

Dr. Arnold:
Okay.

Suzanne Felton:
But none of them work here at St. Luke's.

Dr. Arnold:
Okay. All right, well that's good to know. Last question, why did you choose your career in the lab?

Suzanne Felton:
Yeah, so for as long as I can remember, I wanted to work in the medical field. And as a child, you know about either a doctor or a nurse, and that's the only medicine-related careers that are really out there and well known. So I started exploring the field of medicine and learned about laboratory scientists and I knew it would be the perfect fit for me. It's a lot of problem solving. It's trying to help providers determine what is occurring with the patient. We also fix analyzers, so it's a variety of work. And in the laboratory, we impact almost every single patient that comes through the doors.

Dr. Arnold:
Yeah, definitely. I think COVID, particularly from the micro and testing side, has given people in the hospital—doctors and nurses, particularly early on in all the great work you guys did—time to realize how much the lab is involved in every minute of healthcare. And that not having testing supplies has a ripple effect. And you know, I think you and Cassie and Julie's leadership, have really been a godsend. And I know I speak on behalf of the medical staff, we're glad you're here.

Suzanne Felton:
Yes, it's definitely been challenging and it continues to be a challenge, but we have great people who work down here and they put in a lot of effort to meet the demands that occur because of the pandemic or just what happens every day with people getting ill.

Dr. Arnold:
Yeah, that's so true. Suzanne, this has been great information. Thank you so much for taking the time. Again, this was Suzanne Felton, laboratory manager at St. Luke's. If you are interested in donating blood visit www.bloodscenter.org to schedule your donation appointment with Impact Life.

Thank you for listening LiveWell Talk On. If you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to subscribe. And if you want to spread the word, please give us a five-star review and tell your family, friends, neighbors, strangers about our podcasts. We're available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Pandora, or wherever you get your podcasts. Until next time, be well.