A visit to the St. Jude Blood Donor Center can be as painless as a preschooler’s daily regimen: There’s time to recline in a padded chair while watching an entertaining movie, and everyone gets cookies and juice. It’s also a chance for employees to personally contribute to the treatment of St. Jude patients.
“You can watch a movie, have some snacks and know that you are able to give back to the kids at St. Jude,” said Kimberly Foster, Blood Donor Center recruiter.
There is no current substitute for human blood or platelets. The center helps ensure that patients always have access to blood products, which are frequently in short supply. All products collected in the center are used for patient needs at the hospital. At St. Jude, patients need 15 to 20 platelet donors daily.
Many St. Jude employees are longtime donors, who are happy to drop by the center if there is a shortage or cancellations. Eric Enemark, Ph.D., who works in Structural Biology, has been donating since he joined St. Jude in January 2009. He started by providing whole blood and soon switched to giving platelets, which takes about 90 minutes but allows him to get work done.
“I bring my computer with me and work,” Enemark said. “I know that my donations are going to patients who need it, and it’s something that is not too difficult for me to do to contribute.”
About 1,000 blood product transfusions are performed during a typical month at the hospital. The center collects about 200 units of platelets and 55 units of red blood cells each month.
Nancy Kornegay, who works in Pharmaceutical Sciences, has been donating platelets since 1993. She also takes a laptop with her.
“I feel like if you can give blood that you should find the time because it benefits our patients,” Kornegay said. “It’s easy for me to do, and I love the staff in the Blood Donor Center.”
Jake Slavish, PhD, who works in Chemical Biology and Therapeutics, donates every other week.
“The Blood Donor Center staff do an excellent job of making all the donors feel comfortable and will help you get over your fears and potential discomfort,” said Slavish, who has been donating since 2009.
Typically, anyone in good health who is at least 18 years of age and weighs at least 110 pounds may donate blood and platelets.
“If you live in the Memphis area, or know you will be visiting St. Jude, you can schedule an appointment to donate blood,” Foster said. “If you live outside the Memphis area, you are encouraged to donate blood at your local center for your immediate community.”