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