April 12, 2002 MGH Blood Transfusion Service celebrates
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April 12, 2002

MGH Blood Transfusion Service celebrates

Donors have been flocking to the MGH Blood Donor Center this week to give the gift of life in recognition of the 60th anniversary of the MGH Blood Transfusion Service (BTS). The BTS is celebrating its anniversary throughout the month.

While these 60 years have brought about many changes in blood banking and transfusion practice — areas that the BTS has pioneered — the service continues to grow and improve. "We are always looking at new ways of doing things — opportunities to help make the experience for our donors and patients more pleasant," says Kimberley Cronin, manager of Donor Recruitment.

One of these opportunities is renovating the outpatient care area to increase capacity. This will allow space for more BTS patients each day and give them more room for their transfusions. And the space will be more comfortable with the addition of individual televisions for each of the patient and donor beds that recently were donated by the Ladies' Visiting Committee.


MGH employee Stanely Lawton displays his 60th anniversary T-shirt.

Another benefit for blood donors will be the introduction of the E-Chair, a special chair connected to a laptop computer. With its arrival at the end of April, the E-Chair will allow platelet donors to use the laptop computer to surf the Internet, read e-mails or watch a movie on DVD. "Hopefully the E-Chair will help make the donation time pass a little more quickly for platelet donors, who spend approximately two hours donating much-needed platelets," says Cronin. The BTS will be the first blood donor center in the area to offer the E-Chair. 

The MGH BTS has represented many "firsts" during the last 60 years.  Below are some other BTS milestones:

  • The BTS is the first and largest hospital-based blood bank in New England.
  • In 1942, the MGH Blood Bank supplied blood and plasma for patients who were injured in the Cocoanut Grove Nightclub fire.
  • In 1945, the Blood Bank held air raid defense blood drives to collect and freeze plasma for World War II troops.
  • The Blood Bank helped establish a nationwide reference laboratory network in 1956 to solve blood incompatibility problems and to establish a national rare donor file.
  • In 1963, MGH physician Charles Huggins, MD, invented the Cytoglomerator, which provided the first practical method of freezing large quantities of blood.
  • In 1968, the Food and Drug Administration first licensed the BTS for whole blood collection and distribution.
  • MGH transfusion medicine recently completed the largest prospective, randomized trial for the use of blood components from which white blood cells had been removed.
  • The MGH apheresis (the procedure of donating blood platelets) program, in conjunction with the MGH stem cell program, currently is one of the most active sites in New England for the collection of stem cells for the National Marrow Donor Registry.
  • The BTS includes a nationally accredited laboratory for the identification of rare antibodies — one of only two such laboratories in New England.
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