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Armed Services Blood Program

3/9/2009  - News Courtesy of: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jake Berenguer 

SAN DIEGO - Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) produces enough blood products to support the hospital's needs as well as assist the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP) in its weekly shipment to service members fighting in the global war on terrorism.

All blood products at the hospital are collected from active duty, retired, reservists, beneficiaries, and federal civilian employees, maintaining the ability to be self-sufficient without relying on the Red Cross or local hospitals for blood products.

"The ASBP is really the military's only resource for blood products. We know that the civilian hospitals in the area utilize a good amount of blood products, and we don't want to take away from the products they need. With our regularly scheduled blood drives and walk-in donors we are able to sustain the hospital and support a weekly shipment of blood products to the Middle East to support our troops participating in the global war on terrorism," said Doreen Rekoski, NMCSD blood donor center recruiter.
The demand is high for blood products at NMCSD. According to Rekoski, the hospital uses approximately 600 blood components per month.

"Through education and the four to five blood drives a week we are able to get a decent amount of donors, but there is always a high demand for more. Each donor helps so much. One donor can actually save up to five lives. We are always in need of donors, especially type O-negative blood types," said Rekoski.

Blood from a donor's body is referred to as "whole blood." The whole blood is filtered, tested, and separated into different components in the NMCSD Blood Bank for various uses.

"Once we receive the whole blood, we process it into packed red blood cells (PRBC's) to help patients with low hemoglobin levels. We make fresh frozen plasma (FFP) to assist patients with clotting disorders. We also draw platelets from the whole blood to bring a patient's platelet levels up to a healthy level," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Katy Evans, NMCSD Blood Bank assistant leading petty officer.

Though the raw blood is separated and made into different components, NMCSD primarily uses PRBC's in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or the Ambulatory Infusion Center (AIC). In the AIC, PRBC's are given to those needing frequent blood transfusions, such as cancer patients and the ICU continually needs PRBC's for individual transfusions according to Evans.

After the whole blood is separated, it is filed in freezers by blood type.

"We can't give type A-positive patients B-positive blood products or they could die. We need to know exactly what we have in stock and have them filed and labeled correctly," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Aaron Deguzman, a Blood Bank lab technician.

NMCSD's traveling Blood Bank provides a large portion the blood products that support the transfusions that occur daily at the hospital. The hospital also receives a portion of its supply from walk-in donors at the NMCSD Blood Donor Center.

The traveling Blood Bank visits up to five locations per week. Each donor has a personal reason for giving blood, according to Rekoski, but every donation is equally valued. The traveling Blood Bank visits all military instillations in the San Diego area.

"I donated because my brothers and sisters are over there fighting for their lives and our freedom. A needle prick is a very small price to pay to make sure they come home," said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Amber Hays, an NMCSD radiation physics technician.

To learn more about the Armed Services Blood Program and how NMCSD supports their overall mission, visit:

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