Aaron Deno has to balance many abilities while supervising Kenosha’s Blood Center of Wisconsin facility at 8064 39th Ave. plus the location in Racine — and that’s fine with him.
“I’ve always had a very strong predisposition for science and problem solving,” Deno said. “I get great fulfillment out of it.”
January will mark Deno’s third anniversary in his role. About 10 years ago, fresh out of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside with a psychology and philosophy double major during the Great Recession, the Racine native began working at the Plasma Center in Kenosha.
“I really enjoyed what I did in plasma, but it’s a slightly different beast because we’re compensating the donors there as opposed to the voluntary donors we get here,” said Deno.
About 40 percent of the annual blood collections come from high school blood drives.
The largest is held at Tremper High School each winter while drives are also staged at every major high school in Kenosha and Racine. “It’s an opportunity for us to show high school students that it’s not terrifying, it’s completely safe, it barely hurts at all and to motivate them to become the next generation of donors,” Deno added.
Q: What is the biggest challenge with a volunteer-based donor center like this?
A: Well, we’re volunteer and we’re asking people to come in the door give us a good chunk of their time and let us put a needle in their arm and take some of their blood. Just generally relying on the beneficence and the altruism of the community to help the other members of the community. That’s the hardest thing, especially in our modern world where everything is so fast-paced
Q: Which hospitals does the Blood Center’s Kenosha facility supply?
A: We service Aurora and I believe St. Catherine’s as part of United Hospital System. All of the blood we collect here goes back to our headquarters in Milwaukee for processing, so that’s where they do the testing to make sure it doesn’t have any diseases and filter it and make sure it doesn’t clot so it’s ready to transfuse. When the hospitals have a need, we actually have a transportation department in Milwaukee that loads up vans and runs out to all of the hospitals all over southeastern Wisconsin.
Q: What’s a typical donor experience?
A: It can vary by the day. It depends on how busy we are. I would always encourage people to make an appointment. You come in, you’re greeted at the front desk, we do a quick medical history questionnaire, some basic vital signs, blood pressure, pulse, take a small drop of blood from the finger to check your red cell count. If all of that checks out, go out and donate. In and out can take about 45 minutes to an hour, you get your juice and cookie at the end.
I work with a great team of people and our donors are absolutely amazing. The type of people that can and do take the time out of their day to come in and spend, some of them upwards of three hours, if you’re doing a platelet donation. You get to know them. They’re here every two weeks. We get to know everything about their family, how their kids are doing, who’s going to college, all that stuff. They’re just really amazing people that are very committed to helping others out of no reason other than a sense of doing good for others.
Q: Is there a time of year when blood donations are in more demand than others?
A: For us, yes, there are definitely times, but the most important point is we need a continual baseline supply.
After Sept. 11, 2001, even here at this center, we had people lined up around the block waiting to give blood, which was amazing because people wanted to do something to help others. The unfortunate reality of 9/11 is we collected so much blood nationwide that a lot of it ended up not being used.
You only have about 40 days to use a unit of blood and if it’s not needed in that amount of time, it has to get thrown out. Really what we need is donors who are able to commit to regular donations every eight or 10 weeks or twice a year just so we can have that baseline supply because there could be a liver transplant tonight that might go haywire and that patient needed 40 units of blood and that could deplete that hospital’s entire supply. It’s really important to have a constant supply.”