As a Level 1 Trauma Center in Los Angeles, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Cedars-Sinai) receives the highest acuity of serious traumas, averaging four trauma cases daily.
Approximately 60,000 units of blood and blood products are needed annually, not just for traumatic injuries but for serious illnesses, and advanced medical treatments. The amount of blood needed for various procedures varies from patient to patient. For example, a hip replacement surgery may only need 1-2 units whereas a patient who has suffered serious trauma may require anywhere from 10-100 units. Overall, a high volume of blood is required to treat patients in this 1,000 bed-facility, one of the largest non-profit hospitals in the western United States.
At the Rita and Taft Schreiber Division of Transfusion Medicine at Cedars-Sinai, two thirds of its blood products come from outside community collection agencies. About one third of the blood it transfuses comes from the community, friends and family of patients and the approximately 12,000 employees that comprise this world renowned hospital.
This type of horsepower requires a steadfast, dedicated team to ensure that Cedars-Sinai always has an adequate supply which in a transient town like Los Angeles is no easy feat. In fact, less than 40 percent of the public is eligible to donate and in Southern California only about 2 percent of the population donates on a regular basis requiring blood to be imported from other states. Furthermore, in recent times, there are more stringent requirements to be a blood donor inherently limiting the pool of possible blood donors.
Despite these obstacles, the blood donor facility at Cedars-Sinai is aligned with two very dynamic thoroughbreds, Recruitment Coordinators Nina Vinick and Veronika Bauer, who determinedly navigate the rough terrain of Los Angeles with great success. Their electric passion for the cause is extraordinarily authentic and after 28 and 18 years of working at Cedars-Sinai, respectively, they haven’t lost any steam.
Vinick fervently says, “Blood is the life-source of medicine. Without blood and blood transfusions, many procedures, surgeries and even research cannot and would not be available. As a life-source, we support ALL aspects of medicine.”
Bauer says, “When I walk around Cedars-Sinai and run across sick patients, I’m often reminded of how precious a gift good health is—it should never be taken for granted! When people donate, they have to be in good health, thus it’s a privilege to donate. Not everyone can give the 'Gift of Life!'”
She often speaks to community groups about the importance of “sharing their good health.”
“It helps connect people to the idea and understanding why, if they have good health, they should donate,” she explains.
Make no mistake. When you donate blood at Cedars-Sinai, you receive five-star service for your generous donation. The facility has comfy deeply cushioned reclining chairs with your own personal computer. After the donation, you get some juice and cookies taking you back to the good old days of grade school, when life was simple. Capping off your experience, the facility gives a token of thanks although potentially saving lives is the altruistic token of thanks. The overall donation process for blood takes about 45 minutes but the actual draw time is usually under 10 minutes. Within that short time period, amazingly, just one pint of blood can save the lives of up to three people. An adult has an average of 10-12 pints of blood.
Team member Bess Adams, tactfully recruits those friends and family members waiting in the sitting area on various floors of the hospital. Her soft-spoken effervescent compassion often inspires them to make a blood donation at the facility.
Dr. Holli M. Mason, Associate Medical Director says, “Collecting our own blood provides a cushion against national situations that do affect the blood supply.”
This spirited team also reaches out to the community via their mobile blood program which conducts drives throughout Los Angeles areas. Cedars-Sinai provides everything needed for a successful blood drive on-site using an equipment truck. If indoor space is not available, they will bring their 4 bed, self-contained bloodmobile.
These mobile blood drives are often organized with community businesses, schools, or places of worship with absolutely no cost to the host. Cedars-Sinai rolls out the red carpet and provides promotional posters, flyers, staff, equipment and a token of thanks for those who come to the mobiles.
In the Pacific Palisades, St. Matthews Parish School and Kehillat Israel have been past collaborators. Community participants such as Bloomingdales, City National Bank, Sony Pictures Studios and Hollywood talent agency William Morris/Endeavor Entertainment are some of the community contributors who support the blood needs of Cedars-Sinai’s patients.
Blood is always in demand so the team undoubtedly has to stay on the forefront of new and exciting ways to reach out to the public. In April, they held a blood drive with all the construction workers of the new 450,000-square-foot Advanced Health Sciences Pavilion on the Cedars-Sinai campus, which will be home to one of the most innovative research and state-of-the-art patient care facilities in the world.
Overseeing daily operations and assuring regulatory compliance at the Rita and Taft Schreiber Division of Transfusion Medicine is Dr. Ellen Klapper, Medical Director of Transfusion Medicine. This vivacious stand-out magnifies the distinct employee pride and zest that embodies the culture at this facility.
Klapper says, “The two goals in transfusion medicine are having a safe and adequate supply.”
When asked if Cedars-Sinai has been affected by the state of the economy, Klapper replied, “Blood donations have not decreased during this economic downturn. We’re fortunate that people continue to recognize the importance of blood donations.”
She continued, “The need for blood has increased over the years because of the evolution and progression of medical therapy, advancements in treatments for cancer including stem cell transplants as well as heart and liver transplantation. All rely on blood transfusion support.”
Dr. Klapper has practiced transfusion medicine at Cedars-Sinai for 21 years and continues to enjoy the satisfaction of improving the medical care of so many patients who are treated at the medical center and the dedication of the blood donors who selflessly give of themselves to help patients they have never met.
Just as this blood donor facility has a close-knit culture of zealous employees, there are numerous dedicated blood and platelet donors whose contributions to Cedars-Sinai have not only saved hundreds of lives, but earned them a spot on the division’s Wall of Honor which recognizes their commitment to saving lives.
For the last seven years, volunteer Stefani Poretz, a petite, spunky New Yorker, has donated ten gallons of blood which is 80 pints. “240 people’s lives I’ve affected,” she declared. A trace of her New York edge could be detected as she emphatically stated, “Some people are afraid—they don’t like needles. So you know what, close your eyes when they put the needle in and then they put the sheet over and then it’s done. And, Roswell helps take your mind off it.” Roswell is Poretz’s pet therapy dog who is the comforting and healing mascot for those donating at the blood donor facility and patients staying in various departments throughout the hospital.
Poretz has been a volunteer at Cedars-Sinai for 25 years.
She continued, “Donating blood doesn’t hurt, but even if it hurt, which it doesn’t,” she interjected, “it’s worth it. We’re not talking about pulling a tooth; we’re talking about something monumental—the gift of life.”
Marvin Caesar’s wife in the 90’s had cancer and ultimately passed away. “Her friends donated and my friends donated—and I felt that I should give back to the community,” he explained. Caesar is CMV negative. CMV stands for Cytomegalovirus—a flu-like virus. Most people have been exposed to this virus without knowing it and have developed antibodies. It is usually harmless. For newborns, or those who have weakened immune systems or need organ transplants, it could be very dangerous. Caesar’s CMV negative and AB positive so his blood products, in particular; plasma can be used for neonatal. He has made 49 donations to date.
Vartan Diradourian began donating when his brother was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Diradourian said, “After he passed away, I kept donating because I’m blessed with being healthy and fit to donate so I figured I should do whatever I can to help people who aren’t healthy. I see it more as a duty.” He donates platelets to Cedars-Sinai because, “it seemed like something that people didn’t do often because it took so long,” he explained. (The process for Platelet Donation is different than a Blood Donation, the entire process from the time you walk in to the time you leave is about 2-2.5 hours.) He has made 19 donations.
Haskell Vaughn Anderson III started donating years ago when his wife was having surgery. Bored with what he was reading while in the patient waiting area, he accepted a hospital staff’s invitation to donate blood. While he was donating blood, he saw another donor on an apheresis machine donating platelets and decided to try it. Anderson must really like donating platelets because since then he has contributed a whopping 166 platelet donations to date. Platelets have a shelf life of five days, which includes three days of processing leaving only two days for transfusion. He says, “It’s a privilege. Every time I donate something good always comes to me or for someone I know.”
These stories are just a few of the many individuals who strive to make a difference. Bauer says, “I cannot think of anything else more precious than donating blood or platelets—you can have all the money in the world, but if there is no blood when you need it, money is of no value!”
One person can make a difference. Donating blood doesn’t cost a dime. It just requires your humanity. The Rita and Taft Schreiber Blood Donor Facility at Cedars-Sinai depends on your generous donations. While this casting call for blood donors may not win you an Academy Oscar, you will be rewarded with something much more meaningful: A sense of community, humanity and a warm feeling in your heart knowing that you’ve given someone the "gift of life."
For more information on blood and platelet donations, please contact Nina Vinick: 310-423-2414 Email: Nina.email@example.com
If you are interested in hosting a blood drive, please contact Veronika Bauer at 310-423–3530 Email: Veronika.Bauer@cshs.org