WHAT ARE PLATELETS?
To serve the needs of our local hospitals, we are continually needing to evolve the way in which we produce and collect blood products. Most people are aware of the fact that donating blood can save a life. However, not everyone who donates blood truly understands the impact certain blood components have on their own. The blood of a healthy, average person is 45% red blood cells, 55% plasma, and 1% white blood cells. Platelets are such a small percentage of the blood volume that we can count how many are in a microliter of blood. Platelets have a jagged and random shape that allows them to lock into gaps very easily creating a structure on which blood can clot. Essentially, platelets are the driving force that stops bleeding.
WHY ARE PLATELETS IMPORTANT?
If you’ve ever had a small cut you’ve seen platelets in action. They are the reason why your bleeding eventually stopped and developed a scab. There are people that suffer from an inefficiency to generate platelets on their own, so if they bleed it would take much longer to stop that bleeding. In a trauma situation, a patient is likely to receive both red cells to replace the loss of blood, and platelets to keep the clotting balanced out.
Cancers like leukemia and other blood diseases can also cause a patient to have a seriously low platelet count. Chemotherapies and radiation therapies decrease the platelet count in the blood of a patient, who would then undergo an infusion of platelets that comes from donors. Platelets must be transfused within only five days after donation, making steady donations an important life saving component of patient care. Platelets play a critical role in the lives of these patients. We want our donors to know and understand the importance a single platelet unit provides for a patient in need.
HOW DO WE COLLECT PLATELETS?
With the use of a machine called Trima, an automated apheresis (AY-fur-EE-sis) process, we can separate and collect the most needed components from a donor’s blood and safely return the remaining components to the donor. This process allows us to collect more of what is needed at the moment with fewer donors, thus helping patients in need a lot faster. In a whole blood donation the process of separating red cells, platelets, plasma, and white cells happens after the donation has taken place and each of these components gets manufactured and shipped to different patients in need. If one single patient needed 3 units of platelets, it would take an average of 18 different whole blood donors to provide them. With Trima, it would take 1 to 2 donors.
We understand that donating platelets is more to ask from our donors, but it is incredibly important to illustrate the importance of optimizing your time to save many more lives. The platelet donation process takes longer than a regular whole blood donation because the separation process happens during the donation itself, where the blood enters a centrifuge that separates and pulls the platelets while returning the remaining components. Donors get to sit and relax, catch up on their favorite show, watch a movie, read a book, or stay productive doing work from their phone or computer. Because we are not taking red blood cells, donors are less prone to side effects such as fatigue or tiredness right after a donation. It also takes less time for your body to regenerate platelets than it does red blood cells so donors are actually eligible to donate more often, that is every seven days and up to 24 times a year.
AM I ELIGIBLE TO DONATE PLATELETS?
- Must be 17 years of age or older. You may fill and bring with you a parental consent form for minors here.
- Weight a minimum of 110 lbs.
- Meet pre-platelet and hemoglobin requirements.
- Females with history of pregnancy will need to have an HLA test done.