Platelet donations or Apheresis (a-fur-ee-sis) is derived from a Greek word meaning to "take away". This process consists of drawing blood, taking it "for a spin" in a cell separator, or centrifuge, to separate the red blood cells from other much needed components such as platelets or white cells. The platelets are then drawn up into a collection bag, while the remaining components are returned to the donor.
Apheresis donors are special people. Their compassion for others and willingness to help is evident in the sacrifices they make. If you are 18 years or older, in general good health, weigh at least 110 pounds, have good veins and are willing to share approximately 2 hours of your time, you may be eligible to donate apheresis. If you already donate blood, you know how it feels to be a lifesaver. Donating platelets is another important way to help save a life.
Platelets are colorless blood cells whose main function is to control bleeding by helping to form wound-healing blood clots. They are a body's first step in the clotting process and they help fight infection. Cancer patients often need apheresis platelets to recover after chemotherapy treatments. Surgical patients and burn victims also use platelets in their recovery and can require as many as 20 units of platelets just to survive.
Because your body is constantly replacing platelets and white blood cells, you may donate apheresis twice a week, up to 24 times a year. Pre-donation samples are drawn for routine testing and to evaluate the donors platelet count, white blood cell count and the percentage of red cells present in your blood. Platelet values assist in determining the amount of platelets to be drawn over an expected amount of time.
Apheresis donations have developed in the last 20 years with the donor's comfort in mind. During the donation you can watch TV, see a favorite movie, catch up on your reading, or just sit back and relax. Although this time commitment may be costly for the donor, please remember that there is no gift more precious than one that gives life.
After you donate, you should feel perfectly fine. Because you lose only 1/8th of a cup of red blood cells, you should not feel tired or lightheaded. Your platelets are rapidly replaced within 24 hours.
Apheresis donors must not take any aspirin or products containing aspirin, ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory medications for 36 hours prior to their apheresis donation. These medications take away the "stickiness" of platelets causing them to lose their ability to adhere properly when needed to stop bleeding.
Penrose-St. Francis Blood Bank uses 100% apheresis platelets for our patients. Due to this and an increase in eligibility restrictions, additional volunteer donors are needed now more than ever before.
Platelets carry an expiration date of only 5 days, a three or four day holiday weekend can totally disrupt the availability of platelets nationwide.