Hoxworth Blood Center celebrates July 7 opening of renovated Apheresis Center

Lesser known center collects the most fragile of donations: White blood cells

Tucked in the rear of Hoxworth Blood Center’s central location on the fourth floor is an entirely different blood donation space.

Hoxworth’s Apheresis Center is a lesser-known place but equally as crucial. They collect different types of white blood cells from donors in the Tristate, as well as around the country, for transplantation, therapeutic infusions and emerging cellular therapies.

Hoxworth will celebrate the grand opening of this new space with light refreshments and a ribbon-cutting ceremony from 3 to 4 p.m.,Thursday, July 7. The newly renovated Apheresis Center features four pods to accommodate more donors and offers greater comfort and care as the donation process is longer than a typical whole blood or platelet donation.

At Hoxworth’s Apheresis Center, several kinds of white cell collections can take place seven days a week. Granulocyte cells are one such product collected by Hoxworth medical personnel when the urgent need arises.

“These (white blood cells) are for patients who have undergone chemotherapy and have no white blood cells of their own to help fight off infections,” said Krystol Weidner, RN, manager of Hoxworth’s Apheresis Department.

The entire process for granulocyte collection and infusion begins with a hospital need and a subsequent call to Hoxworth Blood Center to find a suitable donor. Hoxworth’s recruitment team then identifies lists of potential donors who are a blood type match for the patient and begins the recruiting process. Once a donor commits, they undergo a three-hour donation process. The collected granulocytes are then whisked to the patient’s bedside and quickly infused, as these precious white cells expire within 24 hours. Most often they are transfused to immunocompromised pediatric patients at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

“When you get the call for white cells, it’s going to be collected and transfused into a patient that same day. Donors know it’s going directly to the patient in need,” Weidner said.

For stem cell donations, Hoxworth partners with Be The Match, an organization operated by The National Marrow Donor Program that manages the most diverse marrow registry in the world. People from all over the country are matched as stem cell and lymphocyte donors for patients throughout the world. This type of donation takes about four to eight hours.

“These donors are giving so much to get to this point, blood work, injections, physicals, so we wanted to provide a comfortable environment for them as they spend up to eight hours donating stem cells to someone they’ve never met,” Weidner said.

In 2021, Hoxworth collected more than 100 products from donors for the National Marrow Donor Program for patients across the world. Hoxworth expects to surpass these numbers in 2022.

“We look forward to helping more patients across the globe as our apheresis collection capacity grows,” said Caroline Alquist, MD, medical director of the Apheresis program.

The Apheresis Center also provides white cell collections for various established and emerging immunotherapy indications. Whole blood, red blood cells, platelets, and plasma are also collected by this team and used for Hoxworth’s internal research studies in partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Hoxworth’s newly renovated Apheresis Center will better accommodate these special collections and make our donors feel as comfortable as possible while spending their time with our team, Weidner said.