Lots of work goes in to lifesaving donations

Medical scientist Farema Poyan oversees the antibody screening process. Pictures: Marcus Whisson www.communitypix.com.au d410065
Medical scientist Farema Poyan oversees the antibody screening process. Pictures: Marcus Whisson www.communitypix.com.au d410065

The laboratories at the Red Cross Blood Service processing facility on Wellington Street highlight the complex processes used to ensure the right products are distributed.

It all starts in the main donation area, which by 2015 will be moved into the CBD, where donors are interviewed to make sure their blood is appropriate for collection.

Blood Service spokeswoman Jessica Willet said about 650 donations were collected at the site each week.

In the main donor area is Kelmscott resident Peter Mahoney. He first started donating about seven years ago as a way of giving back to the community after he needed a blood transfusion as a 19-year-old when he was involved in a car accident.

Mr Mahoney is on a schedule to donate plasma, which he does about once a month, and is being tested to see if he can generate anti-D antibodies, meaning his blood could be given to pregnant women who are rhesus negative and their baby is, or could be, rhesus positive.

Only 28 such donors exist in WA.

Upstairs the work needed to make such donations viable is done.

This area will soon benefit from a $31 million redevelopment, which will help cater for an expected increase in demand for blood products in coming years.

Samples of blood products ” red cells, platelets and plasma, one per cent of all that collected by the Red Cross Blood Service ” is first tested for quality.

Then every sample collected by the service is tested to determine blood group and rhesus factor.

Red cell serology and reference laboratory manager Sue Weightman said this process was important to ensure the best blood products were being provided to patients, particularly those with rare blood groupings.

Products are tested for infectious diseases and nucleic acid amplification testing, with mandatory screenings including HIV, hepatitis C and B, syphilis and human t-cell lymphotropic virus testing.

Platelet donations are also tested for bacterial contamination.

While this testing is happening, the processing unit simultaneously separates whole blood products into red cells, plasma and platelets.

The products are then stored in fridges, freezers and an agitator (more commonly known as a rocker), ready to be distributed to hospitals.

The end point for blood products at the facility is the downstairs distribution centre which is a hub of activity 24 hours a day, with blood waiting in more freezers and fridges to supply all of WA’s demand, which is expected to double in the next 10 years.