Donating blood isn’t often associated with Netflix and chill, but a new blood donation center in Beaverton wants to change all that. After opening locations in Minnesota and North Carolina, the third location of the Trusting Heart Blood Center opened in Beaverton this past July.
The hook? Donors get paid $75 in cash for every blood platelet donation, during which they can lounge in what's billed as a “donor suite” with Wi-Fi, snacks, and a flat-screen TV. (Opt to watch the free Roku channel or log into a personal Netflix or Hulu account.)
As opposed to a regular blood donation, giving platelets involves being hooked up to a machine that removes the tiny cells in your blood that form clots and help stop bleeding (called platelets) but returns red blood cells and plasma to your body. The whole thing can take up to three hours, so that's a lot of TV time.
The "donor suite" and the waiting room (with a gas fireplace, cushioned swivel chairs, a coffee and tea bar, flavor-enhanced water, Gatorade, juice, granola bars, snack-size bags of popcorn, and pretzel chips) are a far cry from the more familiar hospital-esque vibe with juice and cookies found at most mobile blood donation centers—though many nonprofit donation centers do offer gift cards as thank-yous. Surroundings aside, the goal is the same: attract more donors in order to help alleviate yet another health crisis that Oregon is now facing: a major blood supply shortage, which includes platelets.
“It’s a three-hour time commitment, and the question in our minds is, 'Who’s willing to do this today?'” asks Trusting Heart founder and CEO Vijai Mohan. “Oftentimes younger people don’t have that kind of time, given financial constraints. And so that’s what we think we can provide: an experience in an environment that’s accessible, but also an understanding that compensation might be required for some people in order for them to fit it into their day.”
So why here as the newest location? The Portland area has "high rates of supply instability relative to other areas of the country," according to Mohan. “We’ve had an incredible turnout so far with people interested in coming in to donate, and I think that says a lot about Oregon’s community.” he says.
THBC is selling its platelets to local hospitals, which use them to help prevent bleeding in cancer patients as well as those undergoing surgery and organ transplants. “Because platelets have the shortest expiration date of all the blood products, the platelet inventory most often limits our ability to provide optimal care for our patients," says Trisha Wong, assistant medical director of OHSU Transfusion Services. “As a result, OHSU and hospitals everywhere must make difficult decisions about which patients receive platelet transfusions and who must wait.”
According to Mohan, the typical blood platelet donors at THBC are women in their late 30s, though donors vary in age. And given the perks and pay incentive, he’s banking on repeat donors: if each donor shows up six times a year, it would only require around 2,000 donors total to make a meaningful difference in the region’s supply, he says.
“We really put a lot of emphasis on making this a comfortable and secure place because it gives [people] an incentive to come back—you know, 'This is my time and I can come here and have a couple hours to myself,'” says blood center operations manager Eric Rosa. “We’ve had a pretty busy week, and that’s good.”