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Regional blood center copes with blood shortage

August 14, 2012
By KYLE WHITNEY - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - The Upper Peninsula Regional Blood Center has been battling through a seasonal lull that has been worst than most.

Sallie Coron, coordinator of blood collection for the center, said each summer brings with it a blood shortage.

"Our pool of donors is quite a bit less (in the summer), because in the fall, winter and spring, we depend a lot on the high schools and universities to help us to maintain our blood supply," said Coron, who has been involved with the center for about 23 years. "I think (the shortage) was more pronounced than typical this year."

Article Photos

Sallie Coron of the Upper Peninsula Regional Blood Center in?Marquette describes how a centrifuge, which separates red blood cells from whole blood, operates. (Journal photo by Kyle Whitney)

Coron guessed one reason for the shortage was that the 4th of July fell in the middle of the week this year. People couldn't donate on the holiday and no blood drives were held during the week.

"I had great concern in the month of July," Coron said. "We worked a whole month just to get our target levels up and that doesn't mean they'll stay there.

"There's no substitute for donors."

Coron said the center sees many return donors and noted that first-time donors are tougher to come by.

The Upper Peninsula Regional Blood Center covers 12 U.P. counties and has five fixed blood collection sites. All the blood collected across the region is directed to Marquette, where it is processed and redistributed as needed.

The process to begin donating, according to Coron, is a truly simple one. A prospective donor must be healthy, at least 17 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds.

They must then fill out a registration form and a medical history form, before going through a basic physical examination. The goal, Coron said, is to make sure patients are healthy enough to give blood.

"We're not only looking out for the patient but we're also looking out for our blood donors," she said.

Each time a donor comes in, Coron's staff checks their pulse and iron levels and preps them for what she calls a "fairly painless process."

A typical donation lasts less than 15 minutes and about one pint of blood is taken. A person can donate once every eight weeks.

In addition to whole blood, the center also collects platelets. The platelets can be used to treat people dealing with severe bleeding or hemorrhaging and can assist with the treatment of a number of specific disorders.

"We're the only center in the U.P. that collects platelets," Coron said.

Platelet donation is achieved through the use of an automated blood collection machine, which utilizes a centrifuge to separate the platelets from whole blood. The blood is then returned to the body. Platelet donation takes up to an hour, but is extremely beneficial to those receiving the treatment.

A limited amount of platelets can be extracted from whole blood after a typical donation and Coron said a platelet donation can yield many times the amount. Patients benefit by receiving platelets from a single donor.

Platelet donations can take place once every two weeks.

The Marquette branch of the U.P. Regional Blood Center is located at 427 W. College and walk-in donors are welcome. The center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday.

The U.P. Regional Blood Center's four other donation sites are located in Hancock, Iron Mountain, Escanaba and Sault Ste. Marie.

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.



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