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Donated Blood's Journey

What happens to my donation after I give? 

As soon as your blood donation has been collected at a Memorial Blood Centers donor center or community-sponsored blood drive, it is processed and prepared for patient transfusions—a process that ensures that the blood is safe, and that the right blood type and product is available for the right patient.

Your blood's journey

Preparing your blood

After your unit of blood is collected—along with several small vials used for testing—your blood donation is labeled and then transported to one of our two component laboratories, located in St. Paul and Duluth. The small vials for testing are transported to the donor testing laboratory in St. Paul.

Separating blood components

Whole blood donations are separated into three essential components—red cells, platelets, and plasma.

Testing

Your blood is typed, which includes identifying the ABO type and a positive or negative Rh factor, and each vial of blood is tested for safety, including tests for:

  • HBV (Hepatitis B Virus) 
  • HCV (Hepatitis C Virus) 
  • HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) 
  • HTLV (Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus) 
  • Syphilis 
  • Unexpected red cell antibodies that the donor may have formed in response to an earlier exposure to blood, through either transfusion or pregnancy 
  • West Nile Virus (WNV) 
  • Sickle cell trait (performed on donors enrolling in the sickle cell program) 
  • Zika virus

No blood is released by Memorial Blood Centers for transfusion without passing the required tests. Although it is rare to find donated blood that may transmit infection, those units of blood that are reactive for viral markers are not released for transfusion. A combination of pre-donation screening and rigorous testing ensures the safety of blood supplied by Memorial Blood Centers. In addition, as a safety precaution, we maintain a list of ineligible blood donors and check donors against this list before allowing them to give blood.

Storage and transport

After your blood has been divided, passed all tests, and been properly typed and labeled, it is stored in large refrigerators and freezers at Memorial Blood Centers in St. Paul or Duluth. It is now ready for distribution to hospitals and to the patients whose lives will be saved or sustained by this generous gift. 

The blood components are carefully packed in special temperature-controlled containers and then transported via Memorial Blood Centers’ delivery trucks or authorized couriers to our partner hospitals.

Transfusing your blood to patients in need

The final step in your donated blood’s journey is when the right type of donation you have made reaches the right patient—typically within 10 days. Consider the need and the lives you can save by matching your donation to the blood component patients need most.

Typical # of units

 Patient in NeedRed Blood CellsPlatelets* Plasma
 Accident victim  40-50  10-40 2-25 
 Heart transplant recipient 40      30  25 
 Cardiac surgery patient 2-6 2-10 2-4 
 Premature baby 1-4, type O --- ---
 Cancer patient 10-20  10-50 ---
 Sickle cell fighter 10-15 --- ---
 Severe burn victim 2-1020 20

As the primary provider of life-saving blood and blood components to over 30 hospital partners in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Memorial Blood Centers also provides additional units of blood to hospitals across the country facing an urgent need. In such cases as cancer, heart and blood diseases, and gastrointestinal diseases, many blood products may be used during and after procedures or scheduled treatment. Similarly, large quantities of blood and blood products also may be used for accident and burn victims. When called upon, Memorial Blood Centers also responds to calls for blood from U.S. military or government agencies coordinating relief efforts around the world.

*More than 90% of platelet transfusions come from apheresis donations, rather than platelets derived from whole blood donations.