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LPN Lorrie Owen assists Steve Koshowsky at the LifeSouth Blood Center.
Daily photo by John Godbey
LPN Lorrie Owen assists Steve Koshowsky at the LifeSouth Blood Center.

Two for one special
Blood donor machine doubles
output by replacing fluids

By Paul Huggins 340-2395

If you avoid donating blood for fear of getting sick from the loss of fluid, then it's time to get in line.

LifeSouth and the American Red Cross are using a machine that not only removes blood but also replaces your plasma and platelets after separating and collecting the red blood cells.

And because it can replace lost fluids — it supplements plasma with a saline solution — donors can give twice as much at one time. This also means they must wait twice as long before donating again.

"Instead of getting stuck with a needle every two months, it's just getting stuck every four months. It's a little more convenient," said Steve Koshowsky, a regular donor who used the machine for the first time Monday.

Donating sessions will take longer, however.

Because the machine, called Alyx, intermittently draws blood and pumps fluid back when not drawing, it takes longer to donate. Most sessions last about 22 minutes, LifeSouth officials said. The length of time varies depending on the donors' hemoglobin levels.

LifeSouth obtained three Alyx machines about a month ago. Two are in mobile units and the third is at the main clinic on Somerville Road Southeast.

They've been a hit with everyone who uses them, said Lorrie Owen, LifeSouth blood technician.

"People are little bit skeptical to begin with, but after using it, they feel better and they like it," she said.

Most donors who pass out or feel nauseated experience those symptoms because of the fluid loss, she said, but now they don't have to worry about it because there's no fluid loss.

Donors shouldn't feel any bad reactions throughout the procedure, Owen said, because Alyx draws and replaces a little at a time.

LifeSouth and Red Cross officials hope Alyx will bring in new donors, but the real benefit is that they can get two units at one sitting.

Statistics show people will donate 1.4 times per year. Those people can double their amount without increasing their visits, Owen said.

The Red Cross shares its Alyx with several other North Alabama chapters and uses it only for special blood drives. The next one will be at the Colonial Mall on April 21. It will be part of each mall blood drive when they resume on the last Saturday of each month.

Alyx will not work for everybody, Owen said. Men must be at least 5 feet, 1 inches tall and weigh 130 pounds, and women must be 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weigh 150 pounds.

For more information, call LifeSouth at 308-0769 or the Red Cross at 353-4891.

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