DHMC out for donated blood

  • Laura Osborn, of Norwich, Vt., chats with RN Susan Sansonow just before donating blood at DHMC on Thursday in Lebanon, N.H.This was Osborn's first time donating blood at the hospital. She works at King Arthur Flour and was using their volunteer time to donate. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley news — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/2/2019 10:02:41 PM
Modified: 2/2/2019 10:05:03 PM

LEBANON — On the second floor of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, there’s a small department that contributes to the health care system in a big way.

The Blood Donor Program is the only one of its kind in New Hampshire. The blood donated by volunteers at DHMC is processed and stays at the hospital to help patients who are receiving care there.

“They can donate locally and save lives in their local community,” said Denee Fioravanti, blood donor relations specialist at DHMC.

Currently, on-site donations make up 20-30 percent of DHMC’s blood supply. The rest comes from three other distributors, including the American Red Cross. In the last fiscal year, the program collected 13,000 blood products, including red blood cells, platelets and plasma.

“We can turn around a blood product pretty quickly and use it here at the hospital,” Fioravanti said. Blood has a 42-day shelf life — that’s seven days for platelets. By collecting and processing blood at DHMC and nixing travel time, medical staff have more time to use blood products. For example, they’ll have five to six days to use platelets instead of the two or three if they came from an outside distributor. Platelets and plasma are particularly valuable to patients receiving chemotherapy and other treatment at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

More than DHMC employees and Upper Valley residents donate: Fioravanti said there is one donor who travels from Derby, Vt., every few weeks to donate platelets.

“It’s not something we can manufacture, so we rely on people to be altruistic,” Fioravanti said. “We have an incredibly altruistic community.”

Still, even with the community’s giving, they could always use need of more donors and more blood.

In the last year, the Blood Donor Program launched new incentives to try to increase donations.

One such program, which took place over the month of January, included a partnership with the Norwich Bookstore and Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth. If volunteers mentioned CHaD when they showed up to give blood, the Norwich Bookstore would then donate a book to the children’s hospital, which is located at DHMC.

“This actually brought in quite a few new donors, which is amazing,” Fioravanti said. “It’s an all-around feel-good thing.”

Another new program is a point system. Every time someone donates, they receive a certain number of points that can then be exchanged for gift cards to Upper Valley businesses and restaurants. Two red blood cell donations yield a $10 restaurant gift card. Three platelet donations would get the same.

“I think that it’s helped with donor frequency,” Fioravanti said.

But it hasn’t necessarily brought in new donors. “That’s still sort of a struggle for us.”

DHMC is not alone in that challenge. The Red Cross also has a need for more donations.

“Right now the Red Cross has an emergency need for both blood and platelet donors to make sure patient care isn’t impacted by this winter weather,” said Mary Brant, communications manager for the Northern New England division of the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross has less than a three-day supply on hand. Ideally, officials maintain a five-day supply.

“Blood products are being distributed to hospitals faster than they are coming in,” Brant said.

Her division has been forced to rely on other regions of the country to provide blood to hospitals in Northern New England.

“The only source of blood is a healthy volunteer blood donor,” Brant said. “There is no plan B there.”

While the Red Cross hosts mobile blood drives, donors must visit DHMC to donate to its blood bank.

“It’s a little more difficult,” Fioravanti said, noting that prospective donors might not be able to find time in their daily lives to come and donate. “It’s all trial and error trying to find out what motivates people.”

People are encouraged to make appointments, but the Blood Donor Program also takes walk-ins, including some donors who have family members receiving care at DHMC.

“I think there’s always some sort of personal story,” Fioravanti said.

And every donation helps.

Editor’s note: The Blood Donor Program is open Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. and Friday from 7-9 a.m. For more information or to make an appointment, call 603-653-3775 or visit dartmouth-hitchcock.org/blood-donor-program.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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