New Red Cross location will contain blood donation site

by Andrew Johnson

The Minneapolis Area Chapter of the American Red Cross has a new home on the West Bank after a four-year nomadic existence caused by the closing of its former Loring Park location.
Motria Ramos, spokeswoman for the non-profit organization, said the prior building, originally a private home, became a “sick building” with severe air quality problems, necessitating its evacuation.
Funding for the new facility, which opened in March, included a $3.7 million capital campaign fueled by private donations from local area individuals and corporations.
The ongoing campaign has now reached its 70 percent completion mark, Ramos said.
While not an explicit consideration, North Central Blood Services spokesman Jon Siess said the local chapter was excited about the West Bank location: centralized between both downtown Minneapolis and the University.
As a non-profit organization without a permanent Minneapolis home, the area chapter lucked out with an especially good location.
Along with providing space for educational programs and administrative offices, as well as disaster operations — including accommodation for up to 200 people in case of extreme emergency — the new three-story building is now able to house a permanent blood donor site, which was impossible in the former building.
The first permanent donor center in the Minneapolis area, the new facility supplements conventional whole-blood donations with automated blood collection equipment that selectively removes certain types of blood cells, like red cells and platelets, returning the unneeded balance to the donor.
New technology also allows for the collection of two red cell ‘units’ within the same donation.
Siess said oxygen-carrying red blood cells and structural platelets often play vital roles in blood transfusions, such as those seen in bone-marrow transplants and other treatments.
Bone-marrow transplants are increasingly more common in their apparent effectiveness at treating blood-related diseases, as well as in there being more matches available via transplant banks.
Adding importance to maintaining adequate blood supplies, transfusions are also increasing in number as medicine and technology improve treatment of all kinds of life-threatening illnesses.
Siess said while the Twin Cities area was unaffected by a nation-wide blood shortage this summer and early fall, he confirmed the blood supply “remains chronically low in most U.S. cities.”
While debates continue, and nations disagree about possibly opening up blood donor populations — which typically exclude gay men — Siess reiterated the concern of the Red Cross and Food and Drug Administration in potential “window times” of viruses, like HIV, where detection may prove impossible with current available testing, even recent DNA testing.
While 40,000 units of blood are used each day in the United States, only 8 million Americans actually donate blood — just 5 percent of eligible donors.
A 1 percent increase in demand for blood is currently met by a one percent decrease in supply.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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