Scott Litle: Take Your Donation To The Next Level

This article was published in the Midland Daily News on January 24, 2016.

Scott Litle knows a great double play when he sees one.

So when the Great Lakes Loons' vice president and general manager got the chance to donate double red blood cells with Michigan Blood's new Alyx System, he didn't hesitate.

"If you can get twice the benefit out of drawing blood from one person, it seems that's the way to go," said Litle, a frequent donor at Michigan Blood's Dow Diamond donor center.

Traditionally, blood donation involves drawing a single unit of whole blood and then separating its components at a laboratory. But now in Midland there's another option where you can give more of the component that's needed the most: red blood cells. Through a process called apheresis, you can donate with a special machine known as Alyx that draws your blood, filters out twice the red cells, and immediately returns the rest of your blood back to you.

Tens of thousands of people nationwide have safely donated on Alyx. Donors in Midland have used the new system for about 18 months at Michigan Blood's donor centers at Dow Diamond and Mid-Michigan Medical Center.

"We purchased 15 of these machines statewide, and it's proven to be a great way to push our red cell collections forward," said Danyelle Murphy, Michigan Blood's apheresis coordinator.

By donating red cells on Alyx, you give the blood component that's in greatest demand:

  • More than 14 million units of red blood cells are transfused annually.
  • 40 or more units of red cells could be needed to save an adult car accident victim.
  • Heart surgery patients may need 6 units of red cells.
  • A patient might lose the opportunity to recieve a lifesaving organ transplant if compatible blood is not available.

"The biggest benefit is really for the recipient," Murphy said. "If you come into the hospital and you just had a major trauma or a major surgery and the doctor says you need two units of blood, it's better to get the two units from the same person because it minimizes the chance of a reaction for the patient. It also makes sense from a standpoint of efficiency for us because we can get two units of red cells with less testing and less processing. That means we can actually get our units out to the hospitals faster."

Donating two units of red cells with Alyx only takes about 15 minutes longer than a typical whole blood collection, said Colleen Carty of Michigan Blood's community relations department.

"It's just as easy as donating whole blood, and it's not painful at all," Litle said. "The only reason you know the blood is coming back in is because they tell you to stop squeezing the little ball. Otherwise you'd have no idea your blood was being pumped back into you."

Donors who are O-negative, A-negative, B-negative, and O-positive are usually encouraged to "give double red" with Alyx, Murphy said.

"However, if you donate two units of red cells, then you need to wait four months to donate again, rather than 56 days as with a regular donation," she said.

And for those who like tracking their donations, you'll be happy to know giving blood with Alyx counts ... well ... double.

Scott Litle, vice president and general manager of the Great Lakes Loons, is a longtime blood donor at Michigan Blood's  Dow Diamond donor center. Litle maximizes his donation by giving double his red blood cells.