What Happens When I Give Blood?

Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IE)
Video, 2014

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service’s (IBTS) primary responsibility is the provision of blood and blood products for human patients in Ireland. Over 90,000 people donate blood in Ireland annually, which yields 140,000 red cell packs and 24,000 platelet packs. Yet many donors do not know what specifically happens to their blood following their generous donation. What Happens When I Give Blood? is a short video which brings you on the journey of an average blood donation.

About the artist: 

Blood for transfusion is obtained from human donors by donation and stored in a blood bank. Blood products administered intravenously are red cells, platelets, plasma, cryoprecipitate, and specific coagulation factor concentrates.

After donation, blood is separated into its different components — red cells, plasma and platelets. This is because different patients have different needs. This also allows more than one patient can be treated with each donation. The blood is spun in a centrifuge, which pushes the heavier red cells to the bottom, leaving yellow plasma on top. Platelets settle on top of the red cells in the middle. These layers are physically separated by an automated mechanism. The platelets (also known as the buffy coat) are extracted and pooled with other donors’ platelets. The blood is also filtered to remove white cells.

The donations are tested for viruses and bacteria, as well as for blood groups. Red cells are stored in fridges for up to five weeks, plasma is frozen for up to a year, and platelets are stored at room temperature for up to a week. Blood is constantly in demand and is usually used soon after donation.