Shadowing The American Red Cross Biomedical Lab

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On Saturday, November 17th, I spent a day shadowing Tracy at the American Red Cross in Downtown Columbus. Tracy was a Biomed supervisor who had worked in the lab for over 20 years. After shadowing her for a day, I learned the different methods for blood transportation, separation, and storage.

The first step to the process was the arrival of the donated blood. According to Tracy, over 500 blood donations arrive at the Columbus location every day. The blood is then scanned and continued through a blood separation process.

The second step is the separation process via the centrifuge. Each centrifuge holds up to six blood donation bags. After the blood is centrifuged, the plasma falls to the bottom of the bag, the white blood cells are a thin layer above the plasma, and the red blood cells are the top layer.

After the blood is centrifuged, the blood bag is taken to a pressure machine which pushed out the top red blood cells and white blood cells into another bag attached to the original donation bag. The plasma remained in the original donation bag. By completing this separation, the red blood cells and the plasma were separated and their consistency and colors could be examined.

The plasma color varied after this process. The typical color of plasma ranged from yellow to orange, however, this color could be changed via medication, like birth control–which made the plasma look green– or cholesterol– which made the plasma look milky. If the plasma appeared a milky color, the donation was not used and the donator was contacted.

In the third step, the two bags are separated. The plasma is stored in a plasma freezer and the red blood cells are stored in its appropriate freezer and mixed with glycerol. By storing the red blood cells in a freezer and using glycerol, the RBC can last up to 42 days.

In the last step of this process, the RBC bag is drained into a third bag attached as the white blood cells are finally filtered out of the RBC.

After seeing this process for a span of three hours, I grew to appreciate the process of blood collection and learning about how it is processed and transported to hospitals around the nation.

I would like to thank Tracy and the American Red Cross for this experience and opportunity.

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