Just My Type
Carol Woelfel, 69, is the ardent type. The cream-in-her-coffee type. The matriarch type. The on-the-go type, reassuringly so as she recites her calendar while looking up as if it’s written on the celling. But of all the things that define Woelfel, there is one in particular that makes her especially unique in the health arena: her blood type is O-negative, making her part of only nine percent of Americans whose blood type is considered universal.
That means any person can receive O-negative red blood cells no matter their blood type, and people with O-negative blood can only receive O-negative red blood cells. This is why Woelfel made a passion out of donating for nearly three decades.
The Community Blood Center in Appleton handles the blood donation process and the testing that goes along with it to make sure the blood is safe. One key part of the center’s mission is to supply 100 percent of blood to local hospitals, which include St. Elizabeth hospital in Appleton, Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh and Calumet Medical Center in Chilton – along with a handful of Ministry Health Care hospitals and others throughout the state.
“We are the centralized experts in blood management,” Dr. Todd Straus, Chief Medical Officer says. “There is a lot that happens in getting the right blood to the right recipient, and we have really good relationships with those who work in the hospital blood banks.”
Michelle Moser, lead technologist in the blood bank at Mercy Medical Center’s laboratory, oversees lab work and manages antibody tests (screens for certain proteins that attack red blood cells) and cross-matches (a test to confirm that blood from a donor and blood from the recipient are compatible). She also makes sure the refrigerators, freezers and platelet rockers that store blood are at the appropriate temperature.
“The Community Blood center is extremely important to us,” says Moser. “All the blood products (red blood cells, plasma and platelets) stocked in our hospital blood bank come from the Community Blood Center. We submit orders three times a week at a minimum.”
America’s Blood Centers estimates more than 41,000 blood donations are needed every day.
“When it comes to someone needing blood, it’s the blood on the shelf that is the most important,” Dr. Straus adds. “When people need blood, they need it immediately, and the only way to ensure that is through volunteer blood donors.”
And while donations are always needed, only about 30 percent of the population is eligible to donate. Of that 30 percent, only 10 percent are active donors, he explains. There are a handful of reasons that someone could be deferred from donating: travel history, health history, taking certain medications, low iron levels, and some cancers, like leukemia.
Over the years, Woelfel was temporarily deferred for one reason or another, but this past February, she was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which permanently defers Woelfel from donating blood ever again.
While she may never be able to donate again, she can use her voice to convince others to do so.
“It’s really no big deal to give!” she says. “Think about all the good you can do with one simple act.”
Click here to read the fall issue of @Affinity magazine, which features the full story about Carol and many others about our liquid organ – blood!
Published April 2015