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Blood collected in Anchorage is flown across the state for those in need

Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 7:54 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Barbara Farmer, a resident in Anchorage, is a universal donor who has been donating her blood for the past 10 to 15 years.

“Once we get it going, it’s easy,” Farmer said. “Time to just sit here and relax.”

But while Farmer gets to relax, her blood is preparing to go on a quick journey throughout Alaska. As soon as her blood is drawn, it will start undergoing a quarantine and testing process before it is either driven or flown out to a hospital in Alaska.

“By the time all is said and done and the blood is labeled and such, it’s probably 24, 48 hours before that blood is actually be available,” said Blood Bank of Alaska CEO Bob Scanlon.

The Blood Bank of Alaska is in charge of providing all the blood donations that Alaska hospitals use across the state. Blood is collected at two Anchorage locations, and in Juneau, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Fairbanks, and in the bank’s mobile units. Each week, the bank tries to gather a total of 600 units of blood.

“Everything that we’re collecting is being used,” Scanlon said. “Very, very little waste.”

All of the blood that is collected across the five donation sites all ends up at the bank’s main center in Anchorage, where the quarantine and testing processes occur. If the tests are negative then the units of blood are labeled and sent out to hospitals. The blood is then used at the hospitals in less than two months. The blood must be used within 42 days of collection.

“So, by the time we get it back, we have 39, 40 days left on that unit of blood that can be used,” Scanlon said.

A unique concept, Scanlon said about blood collection in Alaska, is that 80% of the blood transported to hospitals is transported by plane. This allows donors’ blood to travel all over the state to save a life.

“Blood Bank of Alaska is the only blood collection facility in the country that serves the Arctic,” Scanlon said.

Those interested in donating blood can contact the Blood Bank of Alaska to set up an appointment time.

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