Our new, larger, wi-fi equipped Bellingham Donor Center in Bakerview Square opened its doors on January 28, 2014. Donors and staff alike had glowing things to say about the new space — reactions ranged from “homey” to “new and shiny” to “like coming into a new kitchen that I can decorate!”
One of the biggest changes is that the new Donor Center allows donors to give much-needed platelets in addition to whole blood. Bonnie, a retired professor of Anthropology at Indiana University, has been donating for 15 years. She’s up to 4 gallons of whole blood with PSBC (she also donated when she lived in North Carolina) and donated platelets for the first time on opening day.
I think [donating platelets] is great – I like the idea that it can go directly to the hospital and used right away without going through as much processing.
Platelets are the component of blood that helps it clot, and are used to treat cancer patients, those receiving organ or bone marrow transplants, trauma victims, and patients undergoing open heart surgery. While there is definitely some processing involved in platelets (for example, we test all blood products for 13 different diseases, including HIV and hepatitis), platelets do not need to be separated into different components in the same way as a unit of whole blood. It takes 6 units of whole blood to generate the same amount of platelets as one platelet donation.
Was Bonnie nervous? “I’ve never been nervous about giving blood.”
Bob Hungerschafer used to drive down to our Everett Donor Center every other Saturday to donate platelets right when it opened at 8 a.m. Bob has made around around 730 donations (he’s previously the world record holder), so this represents a bi-weekly two-hour commute that he no-longer needs to make.
What does he see as the best part of the new Bellingham Donor Center? “For me personally? Saving all the time and gas going to Everett! Other than that, more people being able to donate. All the people up here who couldn’t donate platelets before now have the opportunity.”
Bob has the following advice for new platelet donors:
Bring lunch! Give it a try. It’s relaxing, it’s enjoyable. Platelets are a little different – it takes a little longer, but you’re treated like royalty when you’re doing it. Bottom line: it helps people. It’s easy to do, it doesn’t take much time, and a lot of people benefit.
And the new Center? “I like it! It’s nice, neat new, and shiny. Really good people. Nice new beds. iPads are new for me – they didn’t have them at the other center. These are kinda different. And somebody here bakes homemade treats on Tuesdays!”
Charles read about the new Center in the Bellingham Herald and thought it was “very impressive – big change from the old one!”
“I’m a kidney patient, so the blood draw is for the kidney doctor. I come in here and roll up my sleeve, they take 2-3 vials of blood, and I’m on my way. I do that every 4 months and I’ve been doing it for 10 years since I had kidney surgery.”
The draw tests Charles’ blood for sugars, potassium, sodium, and other nutrients. “I’m on a strict diet – I was a cook in the army for about 5 years, so I know how to cook and control calorie content.”
They’re very good here. One of the reasons I come here is that it’s difficult to get it done elsewhere, and they’re experts here. They never fail.
Jerrold made his 200th recorded donation – “that’s 25 gallons. I knew they were opening the center today, and I wanted it to be opening day.”
Donating blood has personal meaning to Jerrold.
My mother, in 1952, had a cerebral hemorrhage and it took 9 pints of blood to save her life. We lived in West Seattle at the time, and they would not let me donate blood until I was 16. So I started on my 16th birthday, May 12, 1956.
Jerrold may not become a platelet donor — “it’s pretty hard to change an old guy; I’ve donated so much whole blood” — but he’s a fan of the new facility: “I sat down and asked where the sports TV set was!”
Rick donated the first pint of whole blood in the new location: “I’ve donated for several years, but since I’ve retired I try to do it on a more scheduled basis that’s consistent with every 56 days.”
Rick says of the new location, “Everything is brand new and you’ve got lots of tables and it’s not near as crowded as the old facility.”
Rick donates because “it’s for a really good cause and you never know when you might have a family member of loved one who is in need so I highly encourage and one to donate. It’s not painful and it’s a nice facility with pleasant staff. I have one family member that’s afraid of needles and you never know when you’re going to need it. Plus, both of my parents have had multiple heart surgeries and have needed transfusions, so I’m just hoping to replenish that supply that they’ve used!”
Previously, I hadn’t had a particular day that I donate, and I ended up in December on Tuesday and the center has a special volunteer who donates treats and I decided to make it my regular day. My wife went in the last time with me and got her to give up one of recipes so that we could make it for the holidays!
Helen is the woman behind the treats! She’s been volunteering with Puget Sound Blood Center for a little over a year — she previously “worked at St. Joseph hospital [as a nurse] and when I retired, I was looking for other things to do in the way of volunteering, and this was one of them. ”
Every Tuesday I bake something. I always bake a cake or cookies, or cobbler.
For the opening, she made a fruit pizza, black forest cake, and a coconut cream cake.
Her favorite part of volunteering is, “meeting the people and talking to the people – it’s the relationship and just trust and friendship that you have with not only the people who work here but the people who come and go here. [My interactions with donors] are all memorable in some ways, and they’re all good.”
What does she like most about the new Center? “Just the newness and the excitement that everybody has. The anticipation. All of it – the first day you buy your house, the first day you go to your new job, so all that anticipation and wonderment.”