Platelets are one of several components of blood, each of which has a special use. The components include red or white blood cells, plasma and platelets. Platelets give blood the ability to clot or coagulate and so stop bleeding. Platelet donations are urgently needed for seriously ill patients whose blood has lost the ability to clot or coagulate. This often happens with bone marrow transplant patients and other cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Patients with other illnesses have the need as well, especially those undergoing heart surgery.
Currently, there is a need for platelets which come from one donor, says Nancy Edger-Hall, RN, Supervisor, Blood Donor Center. In a special donation process called "pheresis," Ms. Edger-Hall explains that a single donor can provide enough platelets in one sitting as are normally obtained from 4 to 8 regular donations of whole blood. "By spending a little extra time donating, one person can make a big difference in saving a life," says Ms. Edger-Hall.
How It Works
Ms. Edger-Hall explains that a donor's platelets are separated from the donor's other blood components during the pheresis donation process, the reason it takes extra time. Then, the donor's other blood components minus some platelets are returned to his or her blood system. The donated platelets are quickly replaced by the body's natural restorative ability. Net effect: the donor gives less blood than in a standard whole blood donation.
Ms. Edger-Hall and Louise Taylor, Blood Donor Coordinator, stress that pheresis donations are completely safe and are closely supervised by trained staff. Donors may read or watch television while donating. For the pheresis donor, the process is very similar to the usual one of giving blood, except that it takes longer between one and two hours. Ms. Edger-Hall stresses, "It is impossible to get AIDS or any viral disease by donating either platelets or whole blood. All needles, tubing and collection bags are sterile and discarded after each donation."