Chhorvy Dul is a collections specialist at the American Red Cross Blood Donation Center in Boston. Originally from Cambodia, Chhorvy grew up in upstate New York and has been working for the Red Cross for 14 years. She began as a temp and became a collections specialists after realizing how much she enjoyed working hands-on with donors.
“I like working with people. My favorite part of my job is when the donor comes in. In this setting, the donor and I help each other out. I help the donor relax. Even with needles in both arms [for a platelet donation], donors come here to find peace and relax. The donor helps us with the liquid gold. And we both know that we’re doing something good.”
Chhorvy has collected countless donations in her career and has known some regular donors for over ten years. She believes the biggest thing that stops more people from donating is time. “Lots of people feel like they don’t have the time to come in. You need 2.5 hours to give platelets and at least half an hour for whole blood.”
Chhorvy wants to keep working to raise awareness about donating platelets so that more people will make the time. “A lot of people don’t know what platelets are. They don’t know what platelets can do and how they help people. Platelets only have a shelf life of five days, so donations are used right away. The Red Cross will tell you which hospital used your platelets.”
Chhorvy concedes that collecting platelets presents some challenges. Unlike a whole blood donation, a platelet donation requires two needles. One needle draws the blood from one arm into an apheresis machine. The machine collects the platelets and some plasma.
Another needle returns the red cells and the remaining plasma to the other arm, along with a saline solution.
“We have a lot of donors come in and they get over the fear of the needle. When we do platelets, some people don’t do well with the saline and return needle. People can get uncomfortable with the idea of having their blood come back in.”
Chhorvy shared a particularly rewarding experience when she helped a donor with such a problem.
“At the Red Cross, our model is that customer service is everything. Our mission is to make donors feel very comfortable. We had a donor come in and share a horrible past experience donating platelets, but he wanted to give it another shot. He requested an experienced specialist and he got me. Now he’s a regular donor again and he always requests me. When he’s donating, I make sure he’s always okay and feels like our number one priority.”
The donation center has witnessed lighter moments as well. Chhorvy recalled with a smile two donors who caught each other’s eyes while giving platelets. One thing led to another and they are now married and regularly come in to donate together.
Chhorvy emphasized the symbiotic relationship she feels with the donors. “Some donors get nervous. We put them at ease and they say they didn’t even feel the needle going in. They thank us for our service and skill. We thank them for coming in and helping us out.”
You can find Chhorvy and a great team of collections specialists at the Blood Donation Center at 274 Tremont Street in Boston.