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Tests and Services

Blood Donation

The need for blood and platelets affects everyone. The majority of people will need blood at some point in their lives. Many patients at Children’s National Medical Center require fresh blood or special rare types. Blood and platelets are in constant demand for victims of accidents, cancer treatments, blood diseases, and many types of surgery. Each unit (pint) donated may help three or more patients.

The Blood Donor Center collects approximately 2,800 whole blood donations and 750 apheresis platelet donations per year. But as the number of patients treated at Children’s continues to grow, the need for blood donations is greater than ever. Blood donation types
Children’s Blood Donor Center collects four types of blood donations:

Whole blood donation
Whole blood donations are separated into:

  • red blood cells, which carry vital oxygen to the body’s tissues and organs and are commonly used to treat anemia or acute blood loss.
  • Plasma, the watery, liquid part of the blood that carries the many parts of blood through the bloodstream. It serves many functions, including providing proteins for blood clotting.
Apheresis platelet donations
During apheresis platelet donation, blood is drawn into a machine that separates the parts that make up whole blood:
  • Plasma
  • Platelets, that allows blood to clot

  • Red blood cells
  • White blood cells, that help fight infection and aid in immune process
Directed donations
When families want to recruit specific donors for their children, a directed donation can be made. For more information, contact the Blood Donor Center.

Autologous donations
Some children can give blood for themselves. This is called an autologous donation. The child must be healthy, cooperative, not be anemic, and be at least 10 years old. Small children can’t be their own donors. A child’s physician can provide more information.

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Blood types
Blood is classified by the ABO and Rh systems. The ABO system includes A, B, AB, and O blood types. Each type of blood has a positive or negative Rh factor.

According to the American Association of Blood Banks, distribution of the blood types in the United States is:
  • O positive = 38 percent
  • A positive = 34 percent
  • B positive = 9 percent
  • AB positive = 3 percent
  • O negative = 7 percent
  • A negative = 6 percent
  • B negative = 2 percent
  • AB negative = 1 percent
Donors are needed from all blood types, but especially from rare blood types and from anyone with type O blood. They are considered universal donors because their blood can be given to people with any ABO type blood.

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Donating blood

Most people are eligible to give blood and don’t even know it. To give blood, a person must be:
  • Between 17 and 70 years of age.
  • In good health.
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds.
  • Pass the physical and health history examination given prior to donation. (The Blood Donor Center realizes the questions on the health history are personal. They are required by regulatory agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration and the American Association of Blood Banks, in an attempt to make the blood supply as safe as possible.)
There are temporary and permanent reasons for not being able to donate.

Temporary reasons for not being able to donate*
ConditionDeferral period
Medical conditions
Cold, sore throat, fluThree days after last symptom
PregnancySix weeks after vaginal delivery
Caesarian sectionSix months after procedure
Surgical procedure with overnight staySix months post procedure, completely healed and no symptoms
Blood transfusion12 months after receiving blood
Gonorrhea treatment 12 months after last dose and symptom free
Syphilis treatment12 months after last dose and symptom free
Antibiotics Three days after last dose and no infection or symptoms
Accutane, PROSCAR and Propecia. One month after last dose
Avodart; Six months after last dose
Soriatane; Three years after last dose
Cocaine use (snorting)12 months from last episode
Correctional facility (72 or more hours)12 months from release date
Human bite12 months after incident
Needle stick12 months after incident
Piercing12 months, unless done by a professional under sterile conditions
Tattoo12 months after procedure
Travel to an area endemic for malaria12 months after return from malarial area
Sexual history
Sex with a prostitute12 months after last sexual contact
Sexual partner took illegal drugs by needle12 months after last sexual contact

Permanent reasons for not being able to donate*

A person should not give blood if he or she has ever:
  • Used illegal drugs with a needle
  • Had sex with another man (if a man)
  • Had HIV/AIDS
  • Had hepatitis
  • Had babesiosis or Chagas disease
  • Taken Tegison;
  • Had mad cow disease (vCJD) or a relative who does
  • Had a brain covering-graft
  • Taken clotting factor concentrates
*The reasons for not being able to donate blood sometimes change and the above list is not complete. See a more complete list of temporary and permanent reasons or contact the Blood Donor Center with any questions.

Preparing to donate blood
  • Eat a light, low-fat meal and drink plenty of fluids before your donation.
  • Do not take any products containing aspirin for at least 72 hours before an apheresis platelet donation.
  • Eat iron-rich foods to help meet donation requirements.
Whole blood donation process
  • Donor is registered and medical history is reviewed.
  • Temperature, pulse and blood pressure are taken, along with a small sample of blood to check blood counts to ensure that the prospective donor is not anemic.
  • A unit of blood (approximately a pint) is collected through a single-use, sterile needle, which takes approximately 10 minutes.
  • The entire process only takes approximately 45 minutes and donors are provided with juice and snacks after the process is complete.
Apheresis donation process
  • Donor is registered and medical history is reviewed.
  • Temperature, pulse and blood pressure are taken, along with a small sample of blood to check blood counts to ensure that the prospective donor is not anemic.
  • Donor is connected to an instrument through a sterile, single-use needle and the blood is processed through a machine that separates it into the various blood components.
  • The process can take as little as 1 hour or up to 3 hours. During this time, donors may read, watch TV or a DVD from the Blood Donor Center’s collection or bring their own.
  • Juice and snacks are provided after the process is complete.
After donating
After donating, donors should:
  • Remain in the refreshment area for at least 10 minutes. Donors should keep sleeves rolled up and not bend their arms.
  • Leave the bandage on for at least 4 to 6 hours. If there is any bleeding from the needle site, raise the arm and apply pressure.
  • Do not skip any meals in the next 24 hours.
  • Drink more fluids than usual in the next 24 hours. Avoid alcoholic beverages until after a meal.
  • Lie down or sit down with his or head between the knees if he or she feels dizzy. If symptoms persist, the donor should return to the Blood Donor Center or see a doctor.
  • Resume normal activities after half an hour, but refrain from heavy lifting or strenuous activity for 24 hours.
  • Do not smoke for at least half an hour.
  • Apply an ice pack for approximately 15 minutes four times in the first 24 hours if a bruise develops. If the arm is still tender after the first day, donors may apply warm, moist cloths for 20 minutes 4 times a day and/or take non-aspirin containing pain medication.
Donors should call the blood donor center if they:
  • Feel that their blood should not be used for any reason. The donation will still be tested.
  • Develop cold or flu-like symptoms in the 24 hours after donating.
  • Have any questions at all regarding their blood donation.
Planning for the next donation
People can donate blood every 56 days and platelets once a month.

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Transfusion Buddy Program
The Transfusion Buddy Program provides antigen-matched blood products for frequently transfused patients who require one to 10 units of blood every four weeks.

Everyone has antigens on their red blood cells. There are over 100 known red blood cell antigens.

When a patient receives blood that has different antigens from their own, they may develop antibodies against the foreign antigens. People who receive blood transfusions frequently, such as sickle cell disease patients, tend to develop antibodies more often. This can make it very difficult to find compatible blood for the patient.

By closely matching the donor’s antigen type to the patient’s, we can decrease the amount of antibodies these frequently-transfused children develop.

Donors needed
The Blood Donor Center needs many donors to be on the Transfusion Buddy Program list to increase our chances of finding antigen-matched blood for our patients with sickle cell disease.

A matched donor is asked to donate blood according to his or her eligibility and the child’s transfusion dates.

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Blood Donation - Departments & Programs - Children's National Medical Center