It’s easy to become a blood donor.

  
Blood is the essence of life and to give selflessly can make you feel more connected to your community and to the world around you. It's a fulfilling, powerful and enriching experience to know that your donation could save lives. Unfortunately, fewer than 5% of people who are eligible to donate actually do. Imagine the lives that could be touched by your gift. It's a quick, simple and amazing way to give back to the community.

For more than 65 years, BloodCenter of Wisconsin has partnered with donors to meet the needs of people in our local communities. BloodCenter is the only supplier of blood products to more than 50 Wisconsin community hospitals. Your contribution as a blood donor helps enhance the lives of your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. 

To schedule your appointment, please create a login at myBCW. If you are a new donor, select the blue button to proceed with building your profile and scheduling your appointment. Or call us at 1-877-BE-A-HERO (1-877-232-4376) and we can assist you in scheduling your appointment or answering your questions. If you prefer to contact us online, please fill out our
Contact Form.

Why becoming a blood donor matters1-1-1_Conor_445x250


Your blood donation can help save lives. To meet the needs of patients throughout our state, BloodCenter of Wisconsin must see more than 800 donors a day.

Giving blood is a quick and enriching way to give back to your community. You will feel great knowing that you’ve helped give patients hope for better health. If you have additional questions about blood donation, please check our Blood Donation FAQs.

People you can help with your blood donation
By donating blood, you can help families who have been in accidents or experienced trauma, mothers experiencing labor complications, fathers having heart surgery, children undergoing chemotherapy treatments, premature babies trying to breathe with tiny lungs, or grandparents suffering from severe anemia. If you would like to know more about what your gift of donation can do, read some of our inspiring recipient stories.

Do you know your blood type and how important your donation can be?
No matter which blood type you have, your blood is critically important and helps save lives. Your blood type falls into one of eight blood types. Do you know which type you have? There are four main blood types among donors: O, A, B and AB. There are also 2 Rh factors: positive and negative. AB positive is the universal recipient, while O negative is the universal donor. About 8% of the population has O negative blood. If you have this universal blood type (O negative), you can save 100% of the population because your blood can save a person who has ANY blood type.

What it means to be a rare blood donor
If you receive a letter from BloodCenter of Wisconsin asking you to register with the American Rare Donor Program (ARDP) after you’ve donated, you have been identified as a rare donor. Because some blood types are so rare, your donation may be someone’s only hope for survival. When patients with rare blood types need blood to help treat life-threatening illnesses or conditions, you could be the perfect match, and those patients especially depend on donors like you.

Some rare blood types occur in only one of every 5,000 people. Other rare blood types occur in specific populations. For example, sickle cell disease occurs more commonly in African Americans than in most other populations, and those patients typically receive transfusions as part of their treatment. This means there is a specific need for African-American donors to help treat these patients, especially those who have a rare blood type. Donors of varied ethnicities are especially helpful in donating blood as well as marrow.
 
How much blood is needed for specific medical procedures?
Here are examples of types of medical procedures, conditions or treatments that may require blood.
  • Liver transplant
  • Kidney transplant
  • Heart transplant
  • Adult open-heart surgery
  • Newborn open-heart surgery
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Bone marrow transplant
  • Automobile accident
  • Leukemia
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Premature newborn

What to expect when I donate for the first timeIf you have never donated blood before, you are probably wondering what to expect. The donation process for blood is easy, safe and takes about an hour. For a complete list of how you can prepare to make sure that your first experience giving blood goes smoothly, check out the Donation Process section.

Making an appointment is quick and easy.
To schedule your first appointment online, please create a login at myBCW. If you are a new donor, select the blue button to proceed with building your profile and scheduling your appointment. After your first donation you’ll receive a letter with your Donor ID number. This will allow you to create your personal account on myBCW and track your donation history, eligibility and medical history.

You can also schedule an appointment by calling us at 1-877-BE-A-HERO (877-232-4376). You can view a list of donor centers or upcoming blood drives at MyBCW.

Preparing for your blood donation appointment
It’s easy to share your good health through blood donation. These steps will help you prepare for your donation and ensure the best possible experience:

  1. Get a good night’s sleep.
  2. Eat a healthy meal at least one hour before donating.
  3. Be well hydrated before your donation.
  4. Make sure you bring verification of your identity — a driver’s license, BloodCenter Donor ID card or government-issued ID card - showing your name and birth date.
     
What to expect during your blood donation appointment
The entire donation process for blood is easy, safe and takes about an hour.

1. Registration
When you come to a Donor Center or a blood drive at your business or community organization, you’ll be asked for identification such as a blood donor card, driver’s license, government-issued ID or any other form of identification that shows your picture, birth date and address. You will be asked to provide basic personal information (name, address, phone). You will receive a list of health-related questions and asked to select “yes” or “no” for each. Some of the questions ask about travel to foreign countries or medications you may have recently taken. If you’d like more of an idea about some of the questions, go to the eligibility section to see a list. Like all other blood bank organizations, we are required to ask these questions to help ensure the safety of the blood supply.

2. Medical review
Next, you’ll meet privately with a donor specialist who will conduct a “mini physical.” Your blood pressure, temperature and pulse will be taken. He or she will also take a small drop of blood from your finger to test your blood count. The donor specialist will then review your answers to the health-related questions to make sure that donating is right for you and right for the patients who would be receiving your blood.

3. Donate blood
The actual donation itself takes approximately 10 minutes. The average adult has about 10 –11 pints of blood. During a whole blood donation, about one pint is drawn. You might feel a pinch at first, but then it’s gone, and all you have to do is gently squeeze a ball every few seconds until your blood donation is complete. Some people are afraid of this step, but donating blood really doesn’t hurt. And think of all the patients and families you’re helping.

4. Café time
Donors then head over to the café area for a bit of rest and a few goodies such as cookies and beverages. Your body will begin to replace the donated fluids right away.

5. After your donation
Enjoy your day, you’ve earned it! It’s important to drink lots of fluids the first 24 hours after you’ve donated and avoid strenuous physical activity or heavy lifting for a few hours. If you feel light-headed, lie down until you feel better. You will be able to donate again in 56 days. After your first donation, you’ll receive a letter with your donor ID number. Use your ID number to access your personal account on myBCW(Link: https://web.bcw.edu/bcw/login.php) which helps you keep track of when you last donated, your eligibility and your medical history. After your second donation, you’ll receive a donor ID card for added convenience on your subsequent donation visits.

If you have questions after your donation, please email us at donorservices@bcw.edu or use our Contact Form.

Questions?
Call us at 1-877-BE-A-HERO (1-877-232-4376) if you have any questions or would like your DONOR ID. If you prefer to contact us online, please fill out the Contact Form.

What to expect when you donate blood1-1-2_viterbo_process_445x250

Giving blood is easy. In about an hour, you can make a difference in several lives in your community. The donation process for blood components like plasma, platelets and red cells is nearly identical to the process of giving whole blood. The difference is that it takes slightly longer to donate blood components than it does to donate whole blood. Also, any blood components that are collected – but not intended for use by patients – are immediately returned to your body. (When donating whole blood, nothing is returned to your body, and your blood levels are restored naturally.) Read about the different types of donations and about how giving blood components can give you the opportunity to help even more people.
 
Before you make your blood donation appointment

  1. Find a Donor Center location near your home or work. Go to our Donor Centers or call us at (877) BE-A-HERO (877-232-4376). 
  2. Register online at MyBCW  to create your account and make a blood donation appointment online. You can also search for a community blood drive where you can make a donation.
  3. If you have questions about your eligibility, go to the Am I Eligible? section. Many of your questions may be answered there.
Preparing for your blood donation appointment
It’s easy to share your good health through blood donation. These steps will help you prepare for your donation and ensure the best possible experience:
  1. Get a good night’s sleep.
  2. Eat a healthy meal at least one hour before donating.
  3. Be well hydrated before your donation.
  4. Make sure you bring verification of your identity — a driver’s license, BloodCenter Donor ID card or government-issued ID card - showing your name and birth date.
  5. If you are donating platelets, be sure you have avoided taking aspirin for 48 hours before your donation.
 
During your blood donation appointment
The entire donation process for blood is easy, safe and takes about an hour. These steps outline how simple and quick it is to give blood:

1. Registration
When you come to a donor center or a blood drive at your business or community organization, you’ll be asked for identification such as a blood donor card, driver’s license, government-issued ID or any other form of identification that shows your picture, birth date and address. You will be asked to provide basic personal information (name, address, phone). Then, in a private room, you will answer health-related questions. You will use a computer-based system and will be asked to select “yes” or “no” for each question. Some of the questions ask about travel to foreign countries or medications you may have recently taken. If you’d like to see some of the questions, go to the eligibility section. Like all other blood bank organizations, we are required to ask these questions to help ensure the safety of the blood supply.

2. Medical review
Next, you’ll meet privately with a donor specialist who will conduct a “mini physical.” Your blood pressure, temperature and pulse will be taken. He or she will also take a small drop of blood from your finger to test your blood count. The donor specialist will then review your answers to the health-related questions to ensure that donating is right for you and right for the patients who could receive your blood.

3. Donate blood
Your actual donation itself takes approximately 10 minutes, although the entire process takes about 1 hour. The average adult has about 10 to 11 pints of blood. During a whole blood donation, about one pint is drawn. You might feel a pinch at first, but then it’s gone. All you have to do is gently squeeze a ball every few seconds until your blood donation is complete. Some people are afraid of this step, but donating blood really doesn’t hurt. And think of the all the patients you’re helping.

4. Café time
Donors then head to the café area for a bit of rest and a few goodies such as cookies and beverages. Your body will begin to replace the donated fluids right away.

5. After your donation
Enjoy your day, you’ve earned it! It’s important to drink lots of fluids the first 24 hours after you’ve donated and avoid strenuous physical activity or heavy lifting for a few hours. If you feel light-headed, lie down until you feel better. You will be able to donate again in 56 days. After your first donation, you’ll receive a letter with your donor ID number. Use your ID number to access your personal account on myBCW which helps you keep track of when you last donated, your eligibility and your medical history. After your second donation, you’ll receive a donor ID card for added convenience on your subsequent donation visits.

If you have questions after your donation, please email us at donorservices@bcw.edu or use the Contact Form or call 1-877-BE-A-HERO.

Am I eligible to donate blood?While 60% of the population is eligible to donate blood, fewer than 5% do so. But you have the opportunity! It’s easy to check and ensure that you are eligible. If you have additional questions about blood donation, please check our Blood Donation FAQs.

Donor eligibility

All donors should be in good health on the day of donation. To be eligible, you must:

  • Be at least 17 years old (16-year-olds may donate with parental consent. For more information, please read Parental Information on Blood Donation.
  • Weigh at least 110 lbs.
  • Feel well on day of donation
  • Be free of major cold and flu symptoms
  • Present a photo ID with birth date
  • Not have had hepatitis after age 11 years
  • Not have had any risk factors/behaviors associated with HIV/AIDS

Donors age 16 to 18: please visit Information for Students for additional eligibility criteria.

Medications and health history
Most medications are acceptable. If you are on medication(s) and are unsure whether you can donate, please view the list of unacceptable medications which includes explanations of why certain medications are unacceptable.

Donors must be infection-free at the time of donation. If you are taking an antibiotic for an active infection, please wait until the infection has cleared before donating.

It is also important to know your health history. Be ready to discuss any past or present health conditions or surgeries. Your health history is confidential and will not be shared with anyone other than appropriate BloodCenter of Wisconsin staff members.

Common health history questions
Below are some common conditions/situations that potential donors frequently ask about:
  • Antibiotics: You can donate one day after finishing antibiotics for an infection (bacterial or viral). You can donate if you are taking antibiotics to prevent an infection, for example, following dental procedures or for acne. Antibiotics for acne do not disqualify you from donating.
  • Dental work: Please call 877-BE-A-HERO to discuss the dental work and your eligibility with a specialist. 
  • Flu vaccination: You can donate if you are feeling well.
  • Heart disease: Most donors with a history of heart disease that are feeling well and do not have any restrictions may be eligible to donate. Please be prepared to discuss your specific condition with a Donor Specialist.
  • Infections: You must be infection-free.
  • Injections/Vaccinations: Certain injections and vaccinations require a wait before donating. Please bring the name of the injection or vaccination and the date it was administered.
  • Menstruation: Women can donate during their periods.
  • Piercings: Ear or body piercing using single-use, sterile equipment is acceptable.
  • Pregnancy: Women who are pregnant should not donate. Please wait to donate until 6 weeks after giving birth. Women who are breast-feeding are eligible to donate.
  • Tattoos: Restrictions concerning tattoos have changed. If your tattoo was applied by a licensed facility in Wisconsin, you can donate blood. If your tattoo was applied by an unlicensed facility or a facility outside Wisconsin, we require a 12-month waiting period from the time the tattoo was applied.
  • Travel: If you have traveled to a malarious area, you may not donate until 12 months after your return. If you have ever had malaria, you must be symptom-free for 3 years. For a map of malarious areas, please see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Cancer: Certain cancers require a 1-year wait after treatments. Please be prepared to discuss your specific type of cancer with a Donor Specialist.
     
BloodCenter of Wisconsin performs all blood donations using sterile, disposable equipment throughout the donation process. You cannot get AIDS or any other disease by donating blood.

Biggest eligibility myths

Myth: “I am taking medication so I can't donate.”
Fact: Most medications do not impact your ability to give blood. Persons on a variety of medications can safely donate. View a list of unacceptable medications and an explanation as to why they are unacceptable.

Myth: “Once I tried to give blood but my blood count was too low. That means I can't ever give blood.”
Fact: Just because your blood count was a little low at one point in time does not necessarily mean that you are chronically anemic and cannot give blood. A simple blood test will be performed at the time of your donation to determine if you can donate.

Myth: “I gave blood six months ago so I'm not eligible to give again for a while.”
Fact: Donors can donate whole blood every 8 weeks; platelets every 3 days (not more than twice a week or 24 times a year); plasma every 4 weeks; or a double red cell unit every 16 weeks.

Find a donation location near you

By donating blood you truly are helping to save other people’s lives. Find a Donor Center or blood drive near you.


Associated Files:●    Parental consent form for 16-year-old blood donors
●    Parental information on blood donation
●    List of unacceptable medications

If you have additional questions about your eligibility, or questions after your donation, please email us at donorservices@bcw.edu or use our Contact Form.

What are the different types of donations?BloodCenter of Wisconsin donors can choose to donate whole blood or just specific blood components. Whichever you choose and are eligible for, your donation is greatly needed and appreciated by patients.

Your gift doesn’t have to stop at blood donation if you don’t want it to. To enhance or possibly save even more patients’ lives, consider the possibilities of marrow, organ and tissue donation. If you have additional questions about blood donation, please check our Blood Donation FAQs.

Whole blood donation
The main components that make up blood are:

  • Red cells
  • Platelets
  • Plasma
  • White cells

When most people give blood, they give “whole blood” — that means they give a donation that contains all of these things. After a donation, the whole blood is tested then separated into plasma, red cells and platelets (white cells are rarely transfused) and provided to hospitals.

Apheresis donation
Making an apheresis donation means that you provide one particular type of blood component, such as red blood cells, plasma or platelets. As your blood is drawn, the needed components are separated and collected, and the remaining blood is returned to your body. Patients who need a particular blood component will commonly receive a concentrated dose of that component, rather than receiving whole blood. Donors of all blood types can help patients by donating blood components.

Donating a component is very much like donating blood. The primary difference is that during a component donation, blood flows from a tube in your arm to a sterile chamber within an automation machine, rather than immediately into a collection bag. The chamber “spins” your blood, separating the blood into various components. The component being collected (for example, platelets or plasma) then flows into a special bag. The remainder of your blood is returned to you via a sterile tube that is used only once. Component procedures take a little longer than whole blood donation, but they are safe for you and are an additional way of providing blood components for our patients.

Platelet apheresis donation
  • One platelet donation yields as many platelets as 6 whole blood donations
  • Platelets help in clotting and are often needed by trauma victims, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and patients having surgery
  • A platelet donation takes about 1½ to 2 hours
  • A donor can donate platelets once a week (not more than twice a week or 24 times a year)
  • Platelets: Donors with all blood types are encouraged to donate platelets

Plasma apheresis donation
  • One plasma donation yields as much plasma as 3 whole blood donations
  • Plasma provides antibodies and proteins and provides clotting factors
  • Burn victims, in particular, need plasma
  • A plasma donation takes about 1 hour
  • A donor can donate plasma every 28 days
  • Donors with AB+ and AB- blood types are particularly encouraged
Red blood cell apheresis donation
  • One red cell donation yields as many red blood cells as 2 whole blood donations
  • Red blood cells carry oxygen
  • A red blood cell donation takes about 1½ hours
Patients needing red blood cells include:
  • premature babies
  • patients with sickle cell anemia
  • accident or trauma victims
  • A donor can donate red blood cells every 112 days (16 weeks)
  • Donors with O+ and O- blood types are particularly encouraged

Autologous blood donation
In rare instances, a physician may recommend that a patient scheduled for a complex surgical procedure donate his or her own blood to be reserved for the upcoming surgical procedure.

These decisions are made between individuals and their physicians. In these instances, BloodCenter of Wisconsin can draw and transfer blood to the hospital performing the surgery. If you think you may fall into this category, you are encouraged to discuss autologous blood donation with your physician. Blood draws for such purposes must be recommended and approved by your physician, and there is a charge for such draws that is generally paid for by insurance.

Because some blood types are so rare, your donation may be someone’s only hope for survival. Patients who need frequent transfusions because of these certain diseases are especially at risk. These patients depend on donors like you.

Can I Donate Blood Today?
Whole Blood Donation
You can donate if your last donation was on or before:
Double Red Cell Donation
You can donate if your last donation was on or before:
BCW Impact
BloodCenter impacts patients every day through our commitment to discovery, diagnosis, treatment and cure. Find out how, together with your support, we give hope to others in need.

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