Business of the Week: Blood Center of Northcentral Wisconsin

Wausau Pilot & Review

Editor’s note: Business of the week is a sponsored feature that shares the stories of locally owned and operated businesses in the Wausau area, highlighting the products and services they offer and the ways they contribute to the unique flavor of the metro area. Learn how to get your business featured by emailing [email protected]


Wausau’s featured business this week is the Blood Center of North Central Wisconsin, an organization with a clear mission: to provide a safe, reliable and voluntary supply of blood and blood components to alleviate suffering and save lives. Located at 211 Forest St. in downtown Wausau, the Blood Center of Northcentral Wisconsin team has been serving our local community as a non-profit blood provider since 1952, currently providing blood products to hospitals in Marathon, Langlade, Taylor, Portage , Wood, Columbia, Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas counties. To better serve the community and save more lives, BCNW and The Community Blood Center (CBC) joined forces earlier this year, creating Midwest Blood Centers, an affiliation that combines both blood centers under a new nonprofit organizational structure . This affiliation will help BCNW continue its mission of protecting the health and well-being of its community by ensuring that every patient and family in need has prompt access to blood and blood components.

Emily Jolin, president and CEO of the organization, said she wants more people to know how easy it is to donate blood and how much is actually needed.

“I would like people to know how simple the process really is,” Jolin said. “It is blood that is already available on the shelf that helps in an emerging situation. Blood is perishable and has a limited shelf life. The supply must be continuously replenished. It is also important to note that blood transfused directly patients must be collected from voluntary donors.”

Here, he talks about the donation process, the critical need for blood now, who can and can’t donate and how to get started. If you haven’t given blood recently, or have never considered it, now is the perfect time. Walk-ins are welcome or make an appointment today at www.bcnwi.org.

Take me through the process. When someone comes in to donate blood, what happens from start to finish?

When you come forward to donate blood, you will first be registered with our system and asked to complete a health history questionnaire. A staff member will then review your health history with you and perform a mini-physical (checking your pulse, temperature, blood pressure, and finger stick to determine your hemoglobin level). After this screening, you will go to the collection area where the unit of blood will be drawn; the actual blood draw usually takes about 10 minutes. After donating, you will move to our dining area to enjoy a drink and snack, completing the process in about 45-60 minutes.

In the summer, we often hear about critical blood shortages. Why does this happen?

Summer is a perfect storm for blood shortages. There are usually fewer donors coming forward to donate and a potential increase in the use of blood products. Donors are busy with summer schedules, vacations, travel, and we miss our school blood drives that are held throughout the year. Higher product demands may also result from increased trauma during the summer months.

How critical is the supply level right now?

We are very low right now, especially our supply of type O blood, but all blood types are welcome!

What are the different types of blood donations and what does each one involve?

Currently at BCNW, we focus on collecting whole blood and platelets. Whole blood involves donating one unit (about 1 pint) of blood. This product can be processed into two blood components: red blood cells and plasma, so up to two patients can benefit from each donation. The platelets are collected using an automated method and the process takes approximately two hours. Each procedure results in 1-3 units of platelet concentrate, helping up to three patients. We collect whole blood at our donor center and collect blood. Currently, platelets are only collected at our donor center.

What are the requirements to donate blood? Who can donate?

To be eligible to donate, donors must be at least 17 years old, or 16 with parental consent, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in generally good health. As part of the donation process, donors go through an exam and mini physical to confirm they are healthy to donate. There is no upper age limit. Whole blood can be donated every 8 weeks.

What are some things that would disqualify you? For example, is there a waiting period after getting a tattoo or piercing?

The most common reason for postponement is low hemoglobin, so we encourage donors to fill up on healthy, iron-rich foods before their donation (and stay hydrated, too!). There are a handful of health conditions, medications, recent travel locations, and other risk factors that can lead to a postponement, but the best way to find out if you’re eligible to donate is to call us at 715-842-0761 . We are happy to answer any eligibility questions. Most common prescription medications, such as blood pressure or cholesterol medications, are acceptable. Tattoos and piercings performed at a state-regulated facility are acceptable as soon as they heal.

Do you only participate in blood drives, or can someone request an appointment to donate at any time?

We have blood drives in many Central Wisconsin communities, in addition to our permanent location in downtown Wausau that welcomes donors Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by visiting wow.bcnwi.org. We are open until 6:30pm at our fixed location on the second Tuesday of every month. Many of our blood drives also offer night hours.

What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

I would say the hardest part of our job is simply keeping the supply going. More specifically, making sure we’re retaining current donors and attracting new ones. This has become a struggle year after year. Nationally, statistics show that the donor population as a whole is aging. Between 2017 and 2019, there was a 15.1% increase in donations from people over 65 and a 15.1% decrease from people aged 19-24. Given this trend, the blood supply will not be sustainable in the future if things continue as they are.

What about the most satisfying?

It is most satisfying to see donors selflessly give this precious gift so that it is available to their friends, family and neighbors. They are literally saving lives and we are honored to play a role.


Connect with the Blood Center of Northcentral Wisconsin


  • Visit in person: 211 Forest St., Wausau
  • By phone: 715-842-0761
  • Online at www.bcnwi.org
  • On Facebook HERE

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