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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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A Medical Pioneer: Double Red Donation

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Long reading for research about scientific revolutions, I have myself become a modest pioneer in the field of medicine. Attending my regular blood donation session, a nurse at the welcome desk looked me up and down - all 6 foot 2 inches of me - and called over a colleague, and asked me if I would like to do a special donation and jump the queue. "Ha, going to take two pints of blood off me," I joked. "Well actually..." came the serious reply.

And so it was that I found myself hooked up to a £100 000 blood separation machine, the first person in the whole North East region to donate in this way. The device separates red blood cells, white cells, and plasma as you donate, and then returns the latter components (plus a saline solution) to the donor, who is thus able to give double the amount of red blood cells than at a single, regular donation.

The benefits are many. As a double donor, I am requested to give blood every eight months instead of every four (and, I checked, this does count as double on your donation record, meaning you accumulate the same number of points to get the pin badges). Although I'm a regular donor, the double system is excellent if it can capture from one-off, casual drop-in donors. The patient - particularly those with anemia or haemoglobin deficiencies, which demand red blood - receives a double dose of red blood cells from one donor, reducing their risk of reacting to antibodies. And, the blood being separated "live" on site, it can be directed straight to hospitals rather than via blood banks.

The donation itself lasts longer than normal (about 30 minutes), and there is quite an administrative rigmarole to go through, as the machine requires data about your height and weight (you have to be above 70kg.); because you need high iron levels to compensate for the loss of the red blood in which it is contained, you also need to do a separate iron test which involves drawing blood through a needle, rather than the simple thumb prick. However, the needles used in the donation are smaller, and therefore less uncomfortable. Indeed, there is (for me at least) a pleasant diversion in seeing your own blood separated before your eyes, with the data about my insides projected onto the machine's screen. The only disconcerting aspect is when the fluids are returned to you, which induces a slightly cold tingle in the arm. But, at the end, I felt as fine as after a regular donation. Then again, with six nurses surrounding the bed monitoring my progress and training on the machine, who wouldn't!

Double red donation has been established in the US, though it is only recently being deployed here, as my pioneer work attests. The UK Blood Service has some information about it in their recent leaflet, as does the US Blood Service.

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Posted by Alistair at 12:08 pm

1 Comments:

Anonymous Gareth Plummer said...

Hi great article. I have set up a blood donation campaign which encourages stadiums to set up annual blood donation events, its an idea which is popular in America. I am already in talks with another NFL team and an English Premier League team.

Please support the campaign at: http://www.stadiatech.com/blood-drive-campaign

1:14 pm  

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