May 2-8, 2007

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By Patricia Lynn Henley

Plasma problems

Rare problems with blood transfusions are prompting collection centers to limit or eliminate plasma donations from women. However, officials emphasize that female blood donors are still desperately needed. Once collected, blood is usually broken down into one or more of its components: plasma, platelets and red blood cells. Recent research indicates that plasma from women who have been pregnant may contain antibodies that contribute to transfusion-related acute lung injury, an uncommon but serious complication of blood transfusions. Dr. Nora Hirschser of the Blood Centers of the Pacific, with a coverage area that includes Marin and Napa counties, says the organization is asking female donors if they've been pregnant and male donors if they've ever had a transfusion. If the answer is yes, instead of preparing the plasma for transfusions it's used to create vaccines, albumin or immunoglobulins, which are blood derivatives used to treat various diseases. At Blood Bank of the Redwoods in Sonoma County, plasma is now being accepted only from male donors. Both blood centers encourage women to continue donating red blood cells and platelets. "The main product that we transfuse to our patients is red blood cells. That is key for us," Hirschser explains. "We are always in need of more blood donors. It's important that women continue donating." Blood Bank of the Redwoods spokesman Scott Ferguson concurs. "There's always a constant need for blood products, so we need everybody to come in and donate. We don't want to discourage women." Potential donors in Marin or Napa should call 1.888.393.GIVE; in Sonoma County it's 1.800.425.6634.

Cable profits

Comcast--the Philadelphia-based megacorporation that provides cable, Internet and phone service throughout the North Bay and, indeed, almost all areas nationwide--is having an exceptionally good year. Its first quarter profits were $847 million compared to $466 million for the same period last year, or an incredibly healthy 80 percent increase. It's true some of that remarkable profit upsurge was sparked by a $300 million one-time gain from dissolving a partnership with Time Warner Cable Inc., but the company credited the rest of its good fortune to its "Triple Play" promotion, bundling digital cable, Internet access and phone service into one discount-priced package. "We are just getting started capitalizing on the Triple Play opportunity," enthuses Comcast chairman and CEO Brian L. Roberts. Comcast is one of several cable providers scrambling to win subscribers from telephone companies through aggressive marketing techniques. In the first quarter of this year, Comcast added 644,000 new digital cable subscribers. Its total revenue was $7.4 billion, up from $5.6 billion.

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