Ded­i­cated staff be­hind all the blood

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Scott Mor­gan

There’s a lot more go­ing on at the New Zealand Blood Ser­vice’s Ep­som Donor Cen­tre than meets the eye.

On av­er­age the cen­tre’s 197-strong staff col­lect and test more than 1000 whole blood, plasma and platelet do­na­tions each week.

Many of the 68 pack­ets of bis­cuits con­sumed weekly through­out the ser­vice’s north­ern re­gion sites are de­mol­ished by hun­gry donors at the Ep­som cen­tre.

It pro­vides the only col­lec­tion fa­cil­ity for vi­tal plasma and platelet stocks in the re­gion, while the cen­tre’s lab is one of only two blood test­ing cen­tres in the coun­try.

To com­pli­cate mat­ters fur­ther, do­na­tions have to be pro­cessed in a timely man­ner, whether they come from Auck­land or else­where in the North Is­land.

“You can’t have pack­ets of blood ly­ing around in hot or cold weather. When they’re couri­ered by plane there have to be tem­per­a­ture con­trols,” area man­ager for donor ser­vices Ch­eryle Dyson says.

“In most cases they’ve got to be pro­cessed in cer­tain time-frames. We have a lot of staff beaver­ing away.”

Whole blood lasts for just over a month, while plasma and platelets are good for just a few days.

Af­ter col­lec­tion, the do­na­tions go through a strin­gent test­ing regime.

The process in­volves de­ter­min­ing the blood group of each do­na­tion and test­ing for dis­eases like HIV and hepati­tis C.

“You have to be ab­so­lutely sure what you’re la­belling and who was the source,” pro­cess­ing team leader Susy Kir­wan says.

“If you give the wrong blood to the wrong per­son, they could die.

“Qual­ity con­trol is huge for us. That’s why a lot of time goes into test­ing prod­ucts.”

Be­cause of the large num­bers of do­na­tions that come through each day, the cen­tre’s lab staff work un­usual hours, with shifts start­ing as early as 7am and fin­ish­ing as late as mid­night.

Three staff are al­ways on call if there’s an emer­gency overnight.

“It’s the kind of job you have to have an in­ter­est in and be ded­i­cated. A lot of what they do is over and above the call of duty,” Ms Kir­wan says. “What­ever they do, they know it’s vi­tally im­por­tant be­cause it af­fects the health of the pa­tient.”

Lab tech­ni­cian He­len Hol­lis, who has been in­volved with blood col­lec­tion since 1977, says be­ing able to help some of the coun­try’s most vul­ner­a­ble pa­tients is a re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“You have your mo­ments, but I do en­joy it. It’s very fulfi

Cur­rently the cen­tre is call­ing for more plasma and platelet donors be­cause of an in­crease in de­mand.

Plasma is used to make prod­ucts that aid in the treat­ment of burns pa­tients, haemophil­i­acs and peo­ple with hepati­tis B.

Platelets can be used to help those un­der­go­ing chemo­ther­apy.

While whole blood can only be do­nated four times a year, peo­ple can give plasma and platelets ev­ery two weeks.

“To en­able us to look af­ter donors, we’d like to have more peo­ple in the sys­tem,” blood ser­vice re­cruiter Sh­eryl Bar­ber says.

She says it can be a chal­lenge to at­tract plasma and platelet donors from through­out the re­gion, but those who do sign on usu­ally do so for a long time.

“You get to know them per­son­ally and find out about their fam­i­lies.

“I’ve got one lady who comes down from Pai­hia once a month.”

To do­nate plasma, peo­ple should weigh more than 75kg, while platelet num­bers are as­sessed af­ter do­nat­ing blood for the first time.

Some platelets and plasma are de­rived from whole blood do­na­tions, but up to 60 per­cent needs to come from di­rect do­na­tions to keep up with de­mand.

For more gen­eral in­for­ma­tion visit www.nzblood.co.nz or phone 523-5733.

Or to find out more about do­nat­ing plasma or platelets call Sh­eryl Bar­ber on 5236482.

Hung up: Lab tech­ni­cian Harry Pas­ese pro­cesses do­nated blood be­fore test­ing.

Pho­tos: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Stock­pile: New Zealand Blood Ser­vice team leader Tony Nizetich sorts through do­nated blood at the Ep­som Donor Cen­tre.

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