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Blood Journey > Blood Banks

Blood Storage and Distribution

After your blood has been collected, it is sent to a testing and processing facility. Each whole blood donation is typically separated into three components: red cells, platelets, and plasma. Splitting your blood donation into these components means that your single donation has the potential to save as many as three lives.

Laboratory technicians determine your blood type and Rh factor. They also perform up to 12 different tests on each sample of blood. Every unit of blood is screened for infectious diseases such as HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B and C, as well as for unexpected antibodies that might cause a transfusion reaction in some people.

Each blood donation also undergoes nucleic acid testing (NAT), a highly sensitive testing method to detect both HIV-1 and hepatitis C before the body has begun to produce antibodies.

The test results are then sent via computer to the facility where your blood is being stored. Your unit of blood is tracked by the bar code placed on the bag and the Blood Donation Record when you came to donate blood. By electronically reading the barcode on the bag, the computer will print test results and a label with the blood type for that donation. This computerized process helps us diminish human error and enables us to track each unit of blood.

Each unit of blood is kept at the appropriate temperature until it needs to be shipped to a hospital. Many hospitals receive routine shipments of blood, but Red Cross distribution centers -- and many centers run by other organizations -- are staffed 24 hours a day in order to meet emergency needs. At the hospital, blood components are cross-matched with patients' blood. A patient may receive your blood donation only 48 hours after your donated it!

Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. Volunteer blood donations help patients being treated for accidents, routine surgeries, and serious diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma and other cancers, heart disease, sickle cell anemia, and hemophilia.

To schedule a blood donation appointment, call the Red Cross at 1-800-GIVE-LIFE or donate to an independent blood center by calling 1-888-BLOOD-88.

Together, we can save a life.

Dr. Jerry Squires, MD, PhD
American Red Cross
Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer