Studio Musings

Friday, February 5, 2016

AB+ Blood is NOT Useless!

While I first donated blood back in high school, my donation history is best described as 'sporadic'.  Largely because my blood type, AB+, simply wasn't much in demand.  Junior High biology let me know that while I could receive blood from all eight of the major blood types, I can only donate to other AB+.  Since we're one of the rarer blood types, there really didn't seem to be much need.

In one very memorable experience at a bloodmobile drive, the check-in lady turned me away because "my blood would likely go bad before it could be used" and they'd rather "reserve the limited time-slots for useful blood types".  Huh.  Okay, I can take a hint.  I certainly didn't mind the free pass to skip rolling up my sleeve for the good-Samaritan vampires. 

My sister's helpful text included this photo
Fast forward fifteen, maybe twenty years (boy does time fly!), and out of the blue I receive a photo text from my sister.  A regular platelet donor, she just happened to notice this picture while at the Red Cross.  Suddenly, my blood had value!

Grumbling about how she just destroyed my free pass (Thanks Sis!), I called my local blood bank.   Turns out that even though I knew my blood type, I had to give a regular, whole blood donation before I'd be eligible for anything else.  Watching the bag fill with dark red liquid, I found myself thinking of it as the 'throw away' donation - all those sad little red blood cells just going to waste!  But at least they'd be able to use the other parts, I reasoned. 

Then I got sick, got busy, went out of town, life got in the way and way too much time passed yet again.  Until two days ago, when I received an "APB for AB Plasma" (that's literally what they called it!)  Which is how I found myself tucked under a warm, fuzzy blanket yesterday afternoon with a heating pad on my arm watching my red blood cells take a quick field trip to the 'Apheresis Faire' (my name, not theirs).  After a quick spin on the merry-go-round of the centrifuge, they were herded back home, leaving behind a bright golden fluid slowly filling a sterile plastic bag. 

Hooked up to the machine without much to do, I decided to research my newly 'special' blood further.  Turns out that while we make up only 3-5% of the general population, AB positives make up an even smaller proportion of the donor population.  (Perhaps they had similar donation experiences to my own and decided 'why bother'?)

 Plasma is where AB+ really shines - our plasma can be given to all blood types.  Positive, negative; the Rh factor doesn't seem to matter.  Wow! 

We don't do too badly with platelet compatibility, either.  A+ and B+ can give to their own blood types, plus O+.  So A+ can give platelets to A+ and O+.  In comparison, AB platelets can be given to all blood types of the same Rh factor.  This means AB+ can give platelets to A+, B+, O+ as well as AB+. Combined those four blood types account for about 85% of the general population.  Not too shabby! 

This website gives a really good breakdown of the most useful types of blood donations based upon your blood type. 

So, it turns out that AB blood can shine!  We just have 'get' to spend a little more time with the friendly vampires in order to potentially make a difference.  As a first-time apheresis donor, I can say that it really wasn't bad.  It'll never be "Woo hoo, I get to go donate plasma today", but the staff was really nice and the donation was really nothing worse than a little uncomfortable.  Though it did feel quite odd when the blood cells were all pushing and shoving to get back home.  In hindsight, I mostly just feel a little bad that it took me so long to get started.  To make sure another year (or more) doesn't go by until I make it in again, I have another appointment already set for next month.  Yikes!

Guess it's truly never to late to start!  :-)


  1. Good for you! And just more proof that you're special!

  2. Replies
    1. I just wish that I'd known that the different types of blood donations weren't all the same in regards to which blood type can donate to which blood type!

      That's the main reason I decided to write this post, is because I didn't know that I could have been making a difference ages ago. Although I get the feeling that blood banks do a much better job with that education than they did back when.....

  3. Interesting! I'm AB- and I had the opposite experience...they were always calling me to donate, and at that point I just did. NOT. have the time. Now, in a new city and province, I should probably check back.