occasional vampire joke, Jerry
Squires, M.D., Ph.D., practically
gushes about his job.
national medical director of the
American Red Cross came to MUSC
four years ago to "get back to the
patients" in his position as
medical director of transfusion
and associate professor of
pathology. Squires said he was
drawn to the field because of his
interest in pathology and teaching
and wasn't put off by working in a
blood bank as some of his
save lives every day here. But
transfusion, like many medical
therapies, carry some risk. It is
this knowledge that makes every
person working in the transfusion
service so focused on doing a good
job and on doing what is best for
the patient," he said.
tour MUSC's Blood Bank where Dr.
Jerry Squires and Karen Garner,
manager of transfusion services,
field questions. In one year MUSC
receives about 40,000 units of
blood and blood products from the
American Red Cross, about 60
percent, red blood cell units; 20
percent, plasma units; 18 percent,
platelet apheresis; and 2 percent,
Leading a tour
of MUSC's Blood Bank, Squires
explained what a huge undertaking
it is to keep a Level I trauma
center, such as MUSC, always
prepared for whatever emergency
He points to a
board listing blood types, with
the amount of units stocked in
each. All donors are welcomed, but
particularly type O, since this
universal blood type may go to
anyone. Other blood types are more
restricted as they must be matched
for a safe transfusion.
"We have 60
units of O, so we're good," he
said, noting the bank has a
minimum level it tries to keep
within each blood type. "But we
can have a patient come in by
helicopter in a big trauma case
and that stock is gone."
A single car
accident victim can require as
many as 100 pints of blood. Other
areas of great need for
transfusion are patients with
cancer and sickle cell disease.
Sickle cell affects more than
80,000 people in the nation, many
of whom have to have frequent
blood transfusions throughout
their lives. More than 1 million
new people are diagnosed with
cancer each year, with many of
them needing blood, sometimes
daily, during chemotherapy
blood from the Red Cross that has
been processed and tested. Squires
raves about the services. "We talk
to the Red Cross every day.
They're incredibly valuable to us.
The Red Cross does a superior job
One blood donation can save up to
three people, given all the
components in blood that are
needed. Red cells are stored in
refrigerators at 6 degrees Celsius
for up to 42 days. Platelets are
stored at room temperature in
agitators for up to five days.
Plasma and cryo are frozen and
stored in freezers for up to one
Karen Garner, manager
of transfusiom services, holds up
a bag of platelets that they call
'liquid gold.' One blood donation
can help save the lives of up to
manager of transfusion services,
points out an oscillator where the
platelets are kept jostling.
"We have one of
the lowest expiration rates of
platelets because of our large
There are other ways MUSC's Blood
Bank, which provides the blood
products needed to support 42,000
transfusions a year, stands out.
MUSC is one of few hospitals
committed to providing space for
the Red Cross. The donor room,
located in Room 279, university
hospital, across from 2 West
Amphitheater, is open from 10 a.m.
to 4 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and
technologists hold advanced
degrees, which shows their
dedication. When blood arrives
from the Red Cross, it still has
to be matched to patients' needs.
This isn't as easy as it may seem.
A sickle cell patient, for
example, needs careful matching, a
service that not all hospitals
have the staffing and resources to
Hanging on the wall in the Blood
Bank is an elaborate chart of
blood antigens. The transfusion of
donor red blood cell units that
lack certain red cell antigens
(such as C, E and K) when the
corresponding antigens are absent
from the recipient's red cells has
been shown to reduce the risk of
red cell alloimmunization in
patients with sickle cell disease.
Squires and his
staff help advise staff about
whether patients need transfusions
and if so, test blood products to
ensure the best match. "It's such
a high-powered facility," he said
scanning the room's various
testing areas and equipment from
irradiators to oscillators.
Another part of
his job he likes is that the daily
flow of blood through the bank is
a testament of people's altruism.
It can get challenging during
holidays when fewer people think
to donate blood, but yet the need
remains there. "There's always
this pressing need. It never takes
a vacation. It never quits. There
could always be more donors."
MUSC's Blood Bank test patients'
blood to make the best matches
with the donated blood.
donor recruitment representative
with the American Red Cross,
praised MUSC for donating space.
It's crucial for the Red Cross to
have that support. Blood can be
safely donated every 56 days,
which is a good thing since every
two seconds, someone in the nation
needs blood. Nearly 5 million
people need blood transfusions
each year, and one in 10 people
entering the hospital needs blood.
members in the hospital waiting
for news on their loved one will
donate blood, knowing that one day
it will be used to save someone
"Those are special days for us."