Here's the fascinating behind-the-scenes story of what happens to blood donations.

What journey does your blood or plasma donation go on after you donate? Turns out, it's a really intriguing process.

What journey does your blood or plasma donation go on after you donate?

From the time you give blood until it reaches the person who desperately needs it, it goes through a number of steps.

Watch the journey:


Before I get into the 'splainer below, a few words to know:

1. Red blood cells: They transport oxygen through the body. For anybody who has lost a lot of blood, this is what they need.

2. Plasma: It's the "wet," or liquid portion of blood, which transports all kinds of things throughout your body, including platelets and red blood cells. It can be frozen for up to one year.

3. Platelets: They are needed to stop bleeding. Because they contain clotting factors, they are stored at near-freezing temperatures in a device that moves them constantly to keep them from doing so. Unfortunately, they only last about five days, which is why a constant supply is needed.

Blood donations are removed from the coolers that are used to transport them. Then, they're weighed and spun.

Why do they spin it, you ask?

It separates the blood into plasma and red blood cells.

A solution of preservatives and anticoagulants is added to the red blood cells to double their shelf life.

Then, they're stored in bags at 3.5 degrees Celsius (38.3 degrees Fahrenheit).

Plasma, however, is frozen...

“Let it go … let it goooooooo." No, not that kind of frozen. Plasma can keep for up to one year when stored this way.

...while platelets are kept on the move.

However, the platelets, which are usually suspended in the plasma, have to keep moving or they'll clot, so they're placed into these machines that constantly do just that.


I like picturing the platelets moving around like this.

All donated blood is tested.

Samples of every donation are tested with antibodies to make sure none of the blood is infected with anything.

Once cleared, it's stored by type: A, B, AB, and O. Then it waits.

(There are some further derivatives of those classic designations, but for simplicity's sake, let's just leave it at that.)

When a medical facility needs blood for a transfusion, somebody at the lab finds a match, triple-checks the blood type, then sends it on to the hospital, where it's given to the lucky recipient.

And there you have it! The three-minute video at the top shows some of the equipment used and such. And ... I can honestly say I've learned something today! A lot of somethings, actually.

Now it's time for me to go donate blood.

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