NEW YORK - It starts with a rolled-up sleeve and dose of good will but from there, donated blood goes on a journey of its own. Blood connected at drives in New York City is trucked to New York Blood Center's manufacturing facility in Long Island City.
"It's called manufacturing because we are separating components," said Sarai Paradiso, the executive director of core operations for NYBC.
Nearly 1,100 donated blood units arrive at the Long Island City facility daily.
The units are first checked in and then go in a centrifuge and spun at very high speeds in order to separate the blood.
"Typically we don't keep a whole blood donation as a whole blood, it's separated into its various components," Paradiso explained. "It's separated into red cells, plasma and platelets."
From the centrifuge, the blood goes into an extractor where technicians use a system to manually separate the plasma portion of the blood. The red blood portion is then filtered to remove white blood cells, which could cause reactions in patients.
While the separation process is underway, samples of all the donated blood units are undergoing testing at a separate facility in Rhode Island. The testing typically takes 24 to 48 hours from the time the blood is collected. Once results are in, any blood deemed to carry infection or disease is removed.
Everything else is packaged and labeled and sent on its way to a giant refrigerator or freezer where it awaits transport to hospitals, and eventually patients, in need.
About 1,200 units of blood are shipped out to area facilities daily.
"No one ever leaves their home thinking they're going to need blood," said Javier Jimenez, an account manager with NYBC. "Accidents happen, people get sick, it's whether the blood is there that makes the difference."
Jimenez said there is always a need for blood donors, but the need tends to grow around the holidays.
"We end up seeing a downturn in our collections," he said.
Paradiso echoed that.
"Everyone gets busy, everyone goes on vacation," Paradiso said. "Unfortunately the need is never less, and you know, illness and trauma don't take a holiday."
To learn more about donating or helping, either call 800-933-2566 or see nybloodcenter.org/blood.