Banking Blood for an EmergencyBrian Neville
Blood transfusions are routine for those involved in serious accidents or requiring invasive surgeries. The trouble is, you don’t know whose blood you’re getting and some statistics indicate that one in ten people who receive a blood transfusion contract hepatitis from infected blood. Another problem with blood transfusions is that they depend on your type of blood being available, and there are hundreds of subtypes.
In the era of blood-borne disease and pandemic that idea leaves many people uneasy, which is why hospitals started allowing people to bank their own blood before surgeries.
Today there are private companies who have taken personal blood banking, called autologous blood banking, a step farther, allowing you to bank your own blood while you’re healthy and use later if you need a transfusion. These private blood banks allow you to make small deposits over time (two units are the recommended minimum) then they freeze the blood cryogenically, a process that keeps it fresh for up to 10 years. (If you haven’t used your blood in that period you can donate it so it isn’t wasted.)
Once you’ve set up an account you’ll get an ID card to carry that provides access to a 24-hour retrieval and delivery service should you need a transfusion. Once you start making deposits, the blood is frozen at 120 degrees below zero Fahrenheit using a biological antifreeze solution that protects the cells. When thawed, the antifreeze is removed under sterile conditions. Thawing takes 60-90 minutes. The blood can be retrieved, prepared, and delivered within 24 hours, even overseas. IDANT Laboratories, pioneers in private autologous blood banking, report they’ve never had a client who couldn’t get their blood in the timeframe they needed it.
Dr. Joseph Feldschuh of IDANT says, “You can’t give yourself anything that you don’t already have.” There’s no risk of transfusion reaction because of an imperfect match and that there’s strong evidence that you heal more quickly if you can receive your own blood. In fact, one of the benefits is that there is no risk of developing antibodies to one of the numerous human blood subtypes and suffering an allergic reaction. If you happen to be having cancer surgery, your own blood also carries your own antibodies, which can be a significant advantage.
Storing your own blood requires a small investment up front for phlebotomy and testing, then about a dollar a day for storage. Delivery charges are around $100.
It’s an interesting idea – a small time and financial investment while you’re healthy and things are normal might mean you get blood when you need it – and emergencies almost always bring blood shortages. If you would need a transfusion, having your own blood banked is a smart tactic in a comprehensive survival plan.