BELLINGHAM - When completed in 2014, the larger Puget Sound Blood Center in Bakerview Square will help meet a growing need for blood and, for the first time, allow people who want to donate platelets to be able to do so in Bellingham.
The $1.2-million project is expected to be done by February. The price tag includes the cost of new equipment to collect platelets - the part of blood that helps stop bleeding - from donors.
For years, people donating platelets have had to travel to Everett because the existing center at 1125 E. Sunset Drive is too small at 1,400 square feet.
The new space will be 3,300 square feet.
"This is not a Taj Mahal. It's not a huge space," said Jeanne Galloway, community liaison for Puget Sound Blood Center, during a tour of the new center Friday, Nov. 22.
But it will be a "fantastic" place for donors to come and "do a good thing to save a life," she said.
Like the current space, it will have four stations for people donating blood. It also will have room to accommodate two new stations for people to donate platelets - a process that takes longer than blood donation and uses equipment called an apheresis machine.
And should the Bellingham center, known as a donor center, need more room in the future at its new space at 424 W. Bakerview Road, that's possible, too.
"We built it so we have the capability of expanding," said Jason Hess, supervisor of the Bellingham Donor Center. "It's been a long time coming."
Platelet transfusions are expected to grow by 5 to 10 percent in the region each year in the coming years because of increased demands from surgeries, organ transplants and cancer treatments, according to Puget Sound Blood Center officials.
Bellingham resident Debbie Turk understands those needs well. Her daughter Taylor Turk received 67 units of blood components - plasma, red blood cells and platelets - while battling an aggressive form of leukemia when the girl was 12.
Now 15 years old and a student at Bellingham High School, the girl and her mom are helping to raise awareness for the new blood center, which will serve Whatcom and Skagit counties.
March will mark the third year of remission for Taylor.
Her daughter is "excited to help and give back to an organization like Puget Sound Blood Center because they were instrumental in her survival," Debbie Turk said. "Without the blood donors, she wouldn't be here."
Puget Sound Blood Center representatives hope people will donate to the new Bellingham center in two ways:
-- Give money for platelet collection equipment. The goal is $125,000. To donate, go to psbc.org/gifts/bellingham.html.
-- Consider donating platelets when the center opens in Bakerview Square in February 2014. Go to psbc.org/programs/platelets.htm to learn more.
Reach KIE RELYEA at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2234.