Where does Las Vegas' donated blood go? - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

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Where does Las Vegas' donated blood go?

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Las Vegas resident Lucky Mansour donates blood, one of three donations she makes each year. (Elizabeth Watts/FOX5) Las Vegas resident Lucky Mansour donates blood, one of three donations she makes each year. (Elizabeth Watts/FOX5)
Blood is stored in a refrigeration unit at Untied Blood Services. (Elizabeth Watts/FOX5) Blood is stored in a refrigeration unit at Untied Blood Services. (Elizabeth Watts/FOX5)
A United Blood Services employee gathers pints of blood to assemble into a large bag. (Elizabeth Watts/FOX5) A United Blood Services employee gathers pints of blood to assemble into a large bag. (Elizabeth Watts/FOX5)
Tested blood awaits transport to a hospital. (Elizabeth Watts/FOX5) Tested blood awaits transport to a hospital. (Elizabeth Watts/FOX5)
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

It's the gift of life that can save three people with one donation, and donating blood not only helps people in southern Nevada but those in need across the country.

United Blood Services is part of a nationwide network that others can rely on, and because of the time it takes to collect blood, test centers always need a stockpile on hand in case of disaster.

Lucky Mansour knows the value of giving the gift of life.

"My mom had to get surgery; she was in really bad shape," Mansour said.

When she was 25 years old and living in her homeland of Thailand, her mother desperately needed a transfusion. Someone stepped up to donate, and it saved her life.

"If that person had not jumped in to help my mom, she probably would have passed away. She probably would have died," she said.

The now-43-year-old donates three times a year as a way to give back.

Without donors like Mansour, UBS said serious national blood shortages could be worse because the blood trail often leads back to Las Vegas.

"We're part of a system that includes 18 states in the country," UBS spokesman Danny Cervantes said.

Cervantes said, once donated, a sample of the blood is shipped to a lab in Tempe, AZ, for testing.

"We test quite extensively for different types of bacteria, different types of diseases, HIV testing - all to make sure the blood component is as safe as possible going to a patient in the hospital," Cervantes said.

Expired and contaminated blood is destroyed. Those whose donations come back positive for disease are notified and put on a confidential deferred donation list.

In all, the testing process takes 72 hours. From there, the blood goes through another process.

"It's spun. It's separated into three different products, red blood cells, plasma and platelets," Cervantes said.

The platelets end up on a moving shelf. They must be in constant motion so they don't clot. They only have a five-day shelf life, three of them spent on testing. There's always a high need for more time-consuming platelet donations.

"They usually go most commonly to a cancer patient. When they're going through chemotherapy, their red blood cells are destroyed. Their white cells are destroyed, along with platelets. So we're able to transfuse platelets into them to help them recoup faster," Cervantes said.

Meantime, red blood cells last 42 days, and frozen plasma can last five years.

When it comes to blood types, UBS said the most common are O-positive and A-positive. O-negative is rarer, but it's the universal donor. It can be a lifesaver for anyone who ends up in a trauma room.

"Basically, when a trauma patient comes into the hospital in a serious condition, and they don't have time to type match them with a particular donor, they'll give them O-negative to stabilize them until they can type match and give them their blood type," Cervantes said.

People find out their blood type when they get their donor card in the mail after the first successful donation.

Hospitals across the southwest have contracts with the southern Nevada UBS. They have a constant supply of blood coming in, but will order more blood in case of emergency. There is always someone at UBS headquarters to fill orders.

UBS has answered the call when there are school shootings, bombings and natural disasters elsewhere, too.

"If we have excess, we're able to send it off. This latest cold spell we were able to help blood centers in the north," Cervantes said.

All that blood requires constant donations, between the turnaround and shelf lives and the fact that if there is an emergency, they need a stockpile on hand ready to go.

Cervantes said each donation can impact three different lives.

"It's a great way to help your community. It's an unselfish act that can't be duplicated," he said.

Mansour said her body is healthy and she's happy to spend the little time it takes to give back.

"It's made my day after I donate my blood. It makes me feel good," she said.

It takes about an hour to go through the process - about 15 minutes for the interview portion, 25 minutes to donate and another 15 to recoup and have some snacks.

To learn more about donating blood or to make an appointment to do so, click here.

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