Well it is that time again - time to visit the Puget Sound Blood Bank.
Actually it was that time about 2 weeks ago, but I have been too busy to post about it. Lately, I have started donating platelets rather than whole blood. Whole blood donation only takes around 45-60 minutes compared to platelet donations that take me about 2 hours but the recovery time after is much shorter when donating platelets, and platelets only last between 3-5 days so the demand for platelets is obviously greater.
Plus, when you donate platelets you get to pick a movie to watch while you wait. Yes, I do own a great deal of dvd's that I could watch in the comfort of my own home...but who would that benefit apart from me?
I find it rewarding to think that my blood will be used to help save someone's life, or even just help them to recover from an operation. There is something strangely vampiric about the whole blood process. But rather than me taking blood from a willing donor, I am giving it away. It is also strange to think that my blood is coursing through many other peoples veins....I have never quite thought about it like that before.
Please dear reader don't be put off by my strange analogy of the donor process. It is really quite a simple procedure:
- Fill in paperwork.
- Check blood pressure and iron levels.
- Get hooked up to the automated cell separator.
- Pick a movie and get cosy with a blanket
- Give blood
More information from the Puget Sound Blood Bank:
What are Platelets?
Platelets are blood cells that help control bleeding. When a blood vessel is damaged, platelets collect at the site of the injury and temporarily repair the tear. Platelets then activate substances in plasma which form a clot and allow the wound to heal.
What is Apheresis?
Apheresis (ay-fur-ee-sis) is a special kind of blood donation that allows a donor to give specific blood components, such as platelets. During the apheresis procedure, all but the needed blood component are returned to the donor.
Why is Blood Separated?
Different patients need different types of blood components, depending on their illness or injury. After you donate whole blood, the unit is separated into platelets, red cells and plasma in our laboratory. Only two tablespoons of platelets are collected from a whole blood donation. Six whole blood donations must be separated and pooled to provide a single platelet transfusion. However, one apheresis donation provides enough platelets for one complete transfusion -- that's six times the amount collected from a whole blood donation.
Who Needs Platelets?
Many lifesaving medical treatments require platelet transfusions. Cancer patients, those receiving organ or bone marrow transplants, victims of traumatic injuries, and patients undergoing open heart surgery require platelet transfusions to survive.
Because platelets can be stored for only five days, the need for platelet donations is vast and continuous.
Platelet transfusions are needed each year by thousands of patients like these:
|Heart Surgery Patient, 6 units|
|Burn Patient, 20 units|
|Organ Transplant Patient, 30 units|
|Bone Marrow Transplant Patient, 120 units|
Who Can be an Apheresis Donor?
If you meet the requirements for donating blood, you probably can give platelets. Apheresis donors must:
|be at least 18 years old|
|be in good health|
|weigh at least 110 pounds|
|not have taken aspirin or products containing aspirin 36 hours prior to donation.|
Are Apheresis Donations Safe?
Yes. Each donation is closely supervised throughout the procedure by trained staff. A small percentage of your platelets are collected, so there is no risk of bleeding problems. Your body will replace the donated platelets within 72 hours. The donation equipment (needle, tubing, collection bags) are sterile and discarded after every donation, making it virtually impossible to contract a disease from the process.
How Does the Procedure Work?
During an apheresis donation, blood is drawn from your arm into an automated cell separator. Inside a sterile kit within the machine, your blood is spun and platelets are removed. Your remaining blood components are then returned through your arm.
How Long Does it Take?
Depending on your weight and height, the apheresis donation process will take approximately 70 minutes to two hours. You may watch television or videotapes, listen to music, or simply sit back and relax while helping to save a life.
How Can I Become an Apheresis Donor?
If you live in Western Washington, call the Puget Sound Blood Center's Apheresis Program at 425-453-5098 or 1-800-266-4033 for more information or to make an appointment.
Photo supplied by Getty Images.