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Medical Miracles: Blood Banks

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Place a professional bio and statement regarding your interest in the topic here.  For example:  Lora Cowell  is a Library Media Specialist at Monona Grove High School.  Her interest in the topic of blood banks was sparked by her daughters, three of whom have donated often.  Two of her daughters have blood disorders. Her daughter, Lael, was an organizer of multiple drives at her high school and her college, and she was one of the first students to donate blood, alongside her friend Emma, in the state of Wisconsin, as a 16 year old.

Blood Banks and the Miracle of Transfusion

The Need for a Medical Miracle

In it's History of Blood Transfusion, the American Red Cross notes that the first attempts at blood transfusion began as early as 1628 when shortly after a British physician, William Harvey, discovered how blood circulated through the body. Success was first achieved by transfusing blood between dogs in 1655. The first successful human transfusion was in 1818.

Blood collection programs and banks are crucial to addressing two problems with medical blood transfusion:
  • Blood coagulations
  • Blood incompatibility
  • Technical delivery
  • Infection

Large scale demands for more blood including  the 1906 San Fransisco Earthquake,  World War I  and the 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic, exposed the ineffective nature of using live donors.

Learn more about the early practice of blood transfusion through the PBS documentary, Red Gold, which offers an interesting exploration of the "epic story of blood" and includes an analysis of problems with early blood transfusion practices.

Significant Discovery

A German scientist, Karl Landsteiner , discovered human blood types (A,B, and O) in 1901.  This discovery helped medical professionals understand why some of their patients were having adverse reactions to blood transfusion.

Check out these Resources 

Emerging Innovations

In 1936, Chicago’s Cook County Hospital established the first “bank” of of blood for immediate use by patients undergoing surgery.  Dr. Charles Drew is credited with pioneering the methods needed to preserve blood plasma in 1939. In 1943, J.F. Foutit and Patrick Mollison discovered that incorporating a solution acid-citrate-dextrose into donated blood allowed for longer term storage.

During World War II, U.S. Army Dr. Oswald Hope Robertson recognized the impact of blood transfusions on soldiers who had lost large amounts of blood due to war injuries and established one of the first large scale blood banks. Around the same time, the University of Louisville also established blood banks. Shortly after World War II, these developments led to the establishment of the American Association of Blood Banks in 1947.

Learn more about the history of from

Blood Typing

Blood types were discovered in 1901 by Karl Landsteiner.  When a patient received blood from an individual whose blood does not match, it can lead to agglutination (or blood clumping). When red blood cells clump, they can crack and cause a toxic reation that is often fatal. Landsteinger, along with Alex Wiener, Philip Levine, and R.E. Stetson later (1939) discovered the Rh blood group system  The discovery of types led to methods for determining individual blood types and greatly increased the safety of blood transfusion. Check out the great explanation and visual diagrams on  this oveview of Nobel Prize winner Karle Landsteiner's discovery.

Blood Products

In 1950, Carle Walter and W.P. Murphy, Jr. began the use of plastic bag storage, which allowed for the development of storage systems, including the seperation of blood in to various products (whole blood, red-cells, platlets, and plasma). White blood cells could be seperated and discarded from all products to help reduce the risk of allergic reactions to blood transfusions. By 1979, an anticoagulant preservative had been developed to increase storage time of these blood products.  Medical providers are now able to more specifically treat the needs of their patients. Learn more from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.


In the 1983, tennis player Arthur Ash was given a blood transfusion from which he developed AIDS.  Read more about his life and death here.  Since that time, blood centers have developed appropriate testing protocols that insure that blood supplies in centers are free from blood born pathegens, including AIDS and hepetitis


Social Impact

  Positive Effects   Negative Effects
  • Saves lives/acccident victims
  • Helps to recover from illness
  • Faster recovery of patients
  • Additives to blood for longer shelf life
  • Rejection of blood until blood typing discovered
  • Transfer of blood donors diseases to blood recepient
  • Establish blood banks
  • Careers  options: ex in collecting only red cells, platelets or plasma
  • Present time there is no man made blood substitute
  • For individuals whose ethical beliefs prevent transfusion, patients are permitted to donate blood to themselves prior to surgery.  Dr. also collect patient blood during surgery for purposes of resupplying it to the patient. 
  • Some religious beliefs (specifically Amish and Jehovah's Witness) do not allow for blood transfusion.
  • There has been much controversity around the conception of a "donor child" to treat an existing family member.
  • Donors may feel rejected or discriminated against when not allowed to give blood.

Learn more about ethical issues:

  • While the Arthur Ashe case did not lead to a legal suite, similar cases did. These suites have led to screening requirements that protect donors (and blood banks).
  • Some states enacted Jim Crow Laws that disallowed the use of blood across races.
  • Some states require the identification of AIDS patients to local agencies. While protocols exist to insure patient confidentiality, not all banks effectively use these protocols. 
  • Red Cross Voluntunteer Blood Banks reduce the cost of collection.
  • People can sell their blood to get quick money.


The idea of "giving" blood is not generally controversial, except in the case of a few religious objections.  For the most part, people recognize that blood transfusions save lives.  Controversy (and potential legal issues) generally arise out of concern for privacy of donors and safety of recipients. The American Red Cross (and in fact much of the medical system) relies on the volunteer donation of blood products.  Still, however negative the view of "selling" blood, the inadequate supply of some blood products, particularly in rarer types, necessitates the continued operation of "for pay" blood donation centers.

Learn More...

Blood Center of Wisconsin
Questions about giving blood in Wisconsin? Contact the Blood Center of Wisconsin.
Call 1-877-BE-A-HERO

BloodTunes: Saving a Life One Song at a Time
Campaign, started by 10 year old Summer Mordan, features music by Counting Crows!

The Blood Typing Game
"What happens if you get a blood transfusion with the wrong blood type? Even though a patient's own blood type is the first choice for blood transfusions, it's not always available at the blood bank. Try to save some patients' lives and learn about human blood types!"

Career Exploration: Blood Bank Technologist / Phlebotomist / Hematologist 
Learn more about what it takes to become a technologist working with blood banks.

World Blood Donor Day is sponsored by the United Nations and the World Health Organization each June 14th.  Sponsors host events across the globe.  Check out past years:  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014.  

What do you think?

Have You Given Blood?
I have given blood products more than one time.: 0 votes (0%)
I have given blood products one time.: 0 votes (0%)
I hope to give blood products in the future.: 1 votes (20%)
I will not/cannot give blood product.: 4 votes (80%)
I have received blood products.: 0 votes (0%)
I have a close friend or family member who has received blood products.: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 5

Community Connection

To learn more about blood drives here at MGHS, contact HOSA!

Blood Center of Wisconsin Donor Eligibility Guidelines.

Future Directions

Are there identified directions this medical treatment will take in the future?  Continuing problems that must be address.  Here is your opportunity to share your own concerns and hopes about where we are headed in this field.

Check out the awesome developments that have come through our own Blood Centers of Wisconsin.

Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin

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