Did you know that donating platelets is one of the most important things you can do to help people with leukemia? In fact, in my opinion, it's as important as being a bone marrow donor. There is a serious shortage of platelets. Here's some Frequently Asked Questions about donating platelets:
Isn't donating blood the same as donating platelets?
No, they are two entirely different things. Most community blood drives and small hospitals do not collect platelets. Platelet donation has to be done using a special filtration device known as an aphresis machine that only large medical centers have. When donating platelets, your blood is slowly taken out of one arm and processed through the aphresis machine to filter out the platelets and then returned to you.
Is it more painful than donating blood?
It depends how you look at it. The needle they use is slightly bigger and some platelet donation centers use two needles (one to draw the blood and the other to return the blood). It's more time consuming (takes about 1- 2.5 hours). But you are free to relax, read, use your laptop, or talk on your cell phone while donating. Most platelet donors I know truly look forward to their platelet donation sessions.
What do platelets do?
Platelets are cells in our blood that allow our blood clot so we don't bleed to death.
Why do leukemia patients need platelets?
Many times the chemotherapy given to treat leukemia wipes out the patient's ability to form their own platelets for a period of time. Without enough platelets, a person will bleed uncontrollably. This is why it's so important to find more platelet donors. Platelets, unlike whole blood, cannot be frozen. They are only good for five days and then they have to be disposed of. Sadly with platelets, it's use it or lose it. Hospitals often have to ration their short supply of platelets. I can recall a couple times when my mother needed platelets, but the hospital had run out! Massachusetts General Hospital Blood Donor Center's Facebook page has a great article on A Week in the Life of Platelets.
Where do I find a place to donate platelets?
Unfortunately, I cannot find a central location to search for platelet donation centers. I would start with your regional cancer centers and major hospitals. As mentioned earlier most small community hospitals and blood drives do not collect platelets because of the specialized equipment that is necessary. It is also likely you will need an appointment to donate, so call before you go.
Where can I get more information?
- Video: Why Donate Platelets from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute
- Blood Bank of Hawaii - Good information on the procedure and how many units of platelets are needed for the different types of patients (bone marrow transplant patients require 120!)
Last Updated on Saturday, 07 August 2010 15:04