Message from the President

Blood Donors Are Always the Right Type

This year, 2014, the Rhode Island Blood Center celebrates 35 years of supplying hospitals and patients in Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut with lifesaving blood components. Over the past 35 years, much has changed in blood banking and transfusion medicine, but the fundamental concept of volunteer blood donors providing the gift of life for patients in need is as important as ever.

Traditionally, a blood donation meant a donor giving one pint of whole blood which yielded three transfusable components after processing in our state-of-the-art laboratory: one dose of red blood cells, one dose of plasma and some platelets. Whole blood donations are still the foundation of the blood supply accounting for 75% of all blood donations. But now, using highly automated blood collection technology, 25% of blood donors are asked to donate specific blood components based upon their blood type to better meet patient needs.

Some automated blood collection takes longer than a whole blood collection and some just takes the standard hour. But the process allows us to better manage the blood inventory and supply the patients and hospitals that we serve. Using automated technology allows us to collect the specific components most in need and return all other components back to a donor during the collection process. In other words, we only take what is needed depending on a donor's blood type and availability.

Type O donors are encouraged to give red blood cells since type O red blood cells can be given to most patients needing blood. The benefit of a red cell donation to patients is that it yields two doses of red blood cells as opposed to the one dose we can process from a whole blood donation. Red blood cells are the most common need for patients requiring a blood transfusion. They are especially critical for patients facing trauma or surgery. Not everyone can give a double red cell donation. Men must weigh 130 pounds and be at least 5'1" tall and women must weigh 150 pounds and be at least 5'3" tall (Food and Drug Administration requirements).

Type A and Type B donors are often asked to be platelet donors. Platelets are a critical component for many cancer patients, young and old. Platelet components help cancer patients survive their chemotherapy or radiation treatments on their way to recovery. These treatments suppress a patient's immunological response, making it more difficult for the patient to fight infection. Automated technology allows us to collect multiple platelet doses from a single donor as opposed to pooling platelets together from multiple whole blood donors to create a single dose. Platelet donors often have their white blood cells typed and matched for a particular patient in need. Platelet donations take two hours from start to finish as opposed to the usual one hour donation for whole blood or red blood cells.

Type AB donors are few in number, about 4% of the population, but their plasma is very special. AB donors are the universal plasma donor. This means that AB donor's plasma is compatible with any blood type and can be given to any patient. Plasma is the liquid portion of your blood that helps maintain blood pressure and supplies critical proteins for clotting and immunity. Plasma transfusions are critical for burn victims, trauma patients, organ recipients and patients with bleeding disorders. We often ask type AB donors do a combination of a platelet and plasma donation.

The Rhode Island Blood Center has six donor centers conveniently located throughout Rhode Island where donors can give blood using automated technology based upon their blood type:

  • Providence: 405 Promenade Street
  • Warwick: 615 Greenwich Avenue
  • Woonsocket: 2168 Diamond Hill Road
  • Middletown: 688 Aquidneck Avenue
  • Narragansett: 14 Woodruff Avenue
  • Westerly: 143 Franklin Street (red blood cell automated technology coming soon!)

The combination of traditional whole blood donations, mostly at mobile blood drives, and automated blood collections at our donor centers (and a few blood drives as well) allows the Rhode Island Blood Center to make the very best use of the precious gifts of blood entrusted to us by blood donors. So regardless of where or how you choose to give blood, be assured that you are always the right type.

Lawrence Smith
President & CEO