How can my blood platelets save lives?

donor1Advertisements urging you to donate blood are everywhere—on signs, in brochures in the doctor’s office, and on the sides of buses. You see them. You read them. But the desire and urgency to give may not register with you until it’s you or a loved one who needs this vital, life-giving material.

For many patients at Scott & White Healthcare and other healthcare facilities around the nation, receiving blood and its components is the difference between life and death. And for many hospitals, like Scott & White, donations are in short supply.

One of the blood components that desperately needs replenishing is blood platelets.

What are blood platelets?

“Platelets are small blood fragments that are formed in the bone marrow, and their job is to prevent bleeding by forming clots,” said Paula Robinson, RN, Nurse Manager for Scott & White Blood Donor Services.

A normal platelet count for a healthy child is 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per micro liter of blood, while the normal count for a healthy adult is 150,000 to 40,000 platelets per micro liter.

When a person has a low platelet count, they might need these platelets replenished through a blood transfusion in order to heal or function normally. A low platelet count could be attributed to chemotherapy and radiation treatments or other conditions that compromise the amount of platelets.


And the only way to get these patients the help they need is through donations from willing donors.

“Platelets—like whole blood—cannot be manufactured,” Ms. Robinson said. “It has to be collected from volunteer donors.”

Our Temple hospital alone needs at least 150 units a month, or eight units a day, of this important material in order to support the patients it serves. Right now this need is not being met. But there is something you can do to help. And it only takes a little to help a lot.

What does donating platelets involve?

“We collect platelets through a process called aphaeresis, in which the donor’s blood is drawn into a sterile, disposable kit on an aphaeresis machine,” Ms. Robinson said. “It separates the platelet-rich plasma from the donor’s other blood components. We hold onto the platelets and return the other material to the donor.”

The whole process takes about 80 minutes from the time you walk into the Scott & White Blood Center to the moment you leave. And depending on your medical history, you may be able to donate two or three times in one visit, which helps even more people get the vital material they need.

Unfortunately, the platelets only have a shelf life of five days, so it’s important for the hospital to have donors who give regularly.

“Generally donors are eligible to give once a week, donating no more than 24 times in a 12-month period,” the nurse manager said.

Do I have to meet certain criteria to donate?

In order to be a good donor, the Blood Center staff must ask important medical history questions. Your information is completely confidential. There are a few other important criteria you must meet in order to donate that include physical, medical and travel requirements.

For more information about the requirements and common deferrals, click here.

How do I donate?

If you think you meet all of the requirements, and are ready to save lives, then call the Blood Center at (877) 724-HERO (4376).

“Appointments are preferred because we have a limited number of machines,” Ms. Robinson said. “But appointments aren’t required. If someone just wants to pop in and see if we have a machine available, we are very happy to see them.”

The Blood Center is located on the first floor of Scott & White Hospital – Temple, across from the McLane Dining Room.

All blood types are needed, and if you are an AB donor, your platelets can be donated to anyone.

“We’re a level one trauma center and there are a lot of procedures that require platelet transfusions,” she said. “There’s no other way for us to help these patients unless someone comes in and donates.”

If you are not in the Temple area, please check our listings for upcoming Blood Drives near you.

Have you ever donated platelets? Comment below and tell your story. You might inspire others to donate.

Find a location near you to donate blood today.

About the author

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Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.

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How can my blood platelets save lives?