SAMC Pathologist explains important blood donation procedure

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) Many of us are familiar with the blood donation process, 20 minutes of your time can save up to 3 lives.

"We use blood for people that have surgery, cancer patients, people who are involved in motor vehicle accidents," explained Mark Shertzer, a SAMC Community Pathologist.

But finding a unit of blood for a transfusion is not as simple as matching a person's blood type. When a non-trauma patient needs blood, a sample of their own is taken to SAMC's blood bank for a crossmatch.

"It’s a very technical and time consuming process," said Shertzer.

The sample is put in a centrifuge where the the red blood cells and the plasma get separated out.

Reagents are added to the blood cells, and the sample is spun through a process known as serofuge, to determine the type. Blood types include A, O, B, and AB. Screening Cells, which are similar to reagents are used on the plasma to find antibodies. Antibodies can develop through medication, pregnancy, or prior blood transfusion. If someone has an antibody, they need a donation compatible to their own blood type, plus negative to their corresponding antibody to be effective.

Once crossmatched, the correct unit is taken from the blood bank and delivered to the patient to save their life.

"Double thank you to all those people donating blood,” exclaimed Shertzer. “Because if people stop donating then we stop getting blood and that's a disaster for us."

A unit of blood is good for 35 to 40 days. To donate you can visit your nearest LifeSouth Blood Donor Center.All donations stay in the Wiregrass, helping those at our area hospitals like SAMC.