Wausau Pilot & Review

Editor’s note: Business of the Week is a sponsored feature that shares the stories of locally owned and operated businesses in the Wausau area, highlighting the products and services they offer and the ways they contribute to the metro area’s unique flavor. Learn how to get your business featured by emailing [email protected].

This week’s featured business in Wausau is Blood Center of Northcentral Wisconsin, an organization with a clear mission: to provide a safe, reliable and voluntary supply of blood and blood components to alleviate suffering and save human lives. Located at 211 Forest St. in downtown Wausau, the team at the Blood Center of Northcentral Wisconsin has served our local community as a non-profit blood supplier since 1952, currently providing blood products to hospitals in Marathon, Langlade, Taylor, Portage, Wood Counties, Columbia, Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas. To better serve the community and save more lives, BCNW and the Community Blood Center (CBC) joined forces earlier this year, creating Midwest Blood Centers, an affiliation that combines both centers of blood under a new non-profit organizational structure. This connection will help BCNW continue its mission of protecting the health and well-being of its community by ensuring that every patient and family in need has prompt access to blood and blood components.

Emily Jolin, President and CEO of the organization, said she wishes more people knew how easy it is to donate blood and how necessary it is.

“I wish people knew how simple the process really is,” Jolin said. “It is the blood that is already available on the shelf that helps in an emergency situation. Blood is perishable and has a limited shelf life. The supply must be constantly replenished. It is also important to note that blood transfused directly into patients must be collected from voluntary donors.”

Here, she talks about the donation process, the critical need for blood right now, who can and can’t donate – and how to get started. If you haven’t donated blood recently, or have never considered it, now is the perfect time. Walk-ins accepted or make an appointment today at www.bcnwi.org.

Walk me through the process. When someone comes to donate blood, what does he experience, from start to finish?

When you come to donate blood, you will first be registered with our system and asked to complete a health history questionnaire. Next, a staff member will go over your health history with you and perform a mini-physical (checking your pulse, temperature, blood pressure, and a finger stick to determine your hemoglobin level). After this check, you will go to the collection area where the unit of blood will be drawn – the actual blood collection usually takes about 10 minutes. After donating, you will move to our canteen area to enjoy a drink and snack, completing the process in about 45-60 minutes.

In the summer, we often hear about critical blood shortages. Why does this happen?

Summer is a perfect storm for anemia. There are usually fewer donors coming forward to give and there is a potential increase in the use of blood products. Donors are busy with summer schedules, vacations, travel, and we miss school blood drives that are held throughout the year. Higher product demands may also result from increased trauma during the summer months.

How critical is the supply level now?

We are very low right now, especially on the supply of type O blood – but all blood types are welcome!

What are the different types of blood donation – and what does each one involve?

Currently at BCNW, we focus on blood and platelet collections. Whole blood requires the donation of one unit (approximately 1 pint) of blood. This product can be processed into two blood components – red blood cells and plasma – so up to two patients can benefit from each donation. Platelets are collected using an automated method and the process takes approximately two hours. Each procedure results in 1-3 units of platelet concentrate, helping up to three patients. We collect whole blood at our donor center and blood drives. Platelets are currently only collected at our donor center.

What are the qualifications to donate blood? Who can donate?

To be eligible to donate, donors must be at least 17 years old, or 16 with parental consent, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in generally good health. As part of the donation process, donors go through a screening and a mini physical to confirm they are healthy enough to donate. There is no upper age limit. Whole blood can be donated every 8 weeks.

What are some things that would disqualify you? For example, is there a waiting period after getting a tattoo or piercing?

The most common reason for postponement is low hemoglobin, so we encourage donors to load up on healthy, iron-rich foods before their donation (and stay hydrated, too!). There are a number of health conditions, medications, last travel location and other risk factors that can result in deferment, but the best way to find out if you are eligible to donate is to call us at 715-842-0761. We are happy to answer any eligibility questions. Most common prescription drugs, such as blood pressure or cholesterol medications, are acceptable. Tattoos and body piercings performed at a state-regulated facility are acceptable once healed.

Do you only participate in blood drives, or can someone make an appointment to donate at any time?

We have blood drives in many Central Wisconsin communities in addition to our fixed site in downtown Wausau that accepts donors every Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4:30 pm. by visiting wow.bcnwi.org. We are open until 6.30pm on our fixed site on the second Tuesday of every month. Many of our blood drives also offer evening hours.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

I would say the most challenging part of our job is just keeping up with the supply. More specifically, making sure we are retaining current donors and attracting new ones. This has become more of a struggle year by year. Nationally, statistics show that the donor population as a whole is aging. From 2017 to 2019, there was a 15.1% increase in donations from individuals over 65 and a 15.1% decrease from individuals 19-24. Given this trend, the blood supply will not be sustainable in the future if things continue as they are.

And the most satisfying thing?

The most satisfying thing is witnessing donors selflessly giving this precious gift so that it is available to their friends, families and neighbors. They are literally saving lives and we are honored to play a part in it.

Connect with the Blood Center of Northcentral Wisconsin

  • Visit in person: 211 Forest St., Wausau
  • By phone: 715-842-0761
  • Online at www.bcnwi.org
  • On Facebook HERE

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