Before I go into my experience of Giving Platelets, I firstly need to explain what they are are and how they help others.
What are Platelets ?
Blood is made in the bone marrow and composes of red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma and platelets. Regular blood donations which everyone knows about are referred to as whole blood donations. Platelets are small cells which are used along with clotting factors of plasma to help stop or prevent bleeding.
Why are Platelet Donors Needed ?
Platelet donations are given to patients who are unable to make enough platelets in their bone marrow. An example of this is patients with leukaemia or other cancers who may have too few platelets as the result of their disease or treatment. In addition after major surgery or an extensive injury, patients may need platelet transfusions to replace those lost through bleeding. Platelets given by donors can help up to 3 adults or 12 children, however the platelets can only be stored for 6 days approximately, on the upside a platelet donor can give every 3 weeks unlike a whole blood donor who can only give very every 3 months approximately.
A detailed explanation of what platelets are and how they are used can be found on the NHS Blood and Transplant.
My Experience as a Platelet Donor
I have been a blood donor for a number of years when I was younger but for one reason for another I had stopped giving on a regular basis. Last year I restarted giving blood and it was at one of the sessions which I attended where I found out about Platelets, I hadn’t heard of them previously so I was interested to know what it was all about.
Before becoming a Platelet donor you need to provide a blood sample which is used to check whether your platelet count is high enough to donate. My blood group is A- which is referred to as gold blood in the platelet world as my platelets are universal and can be used with all patients. After a 6 week wait the results were in and I was accept, excellent news!
Donating platelets takes upto an hour, I’m normally attached to the machine for 46 minutes. There are however only so many centres in the country where you can donate platelets, I go to the centre in the middle of Birmingham on New Street.
The process is pretty simple just like with a whole blood donation a needle is placed in your arm however unlike a normal donation which only takes 10 minutes with platelets the needle will stay in your arm for 46+ minutes. The blood is pumped out of your arm under low pressure through the need, the machine then separates the platelets and returns your blood minus the platelets. It is a painless process and you are looked after during the donation provided with drinks and refreshments throughout. For further details about the process check out the platelet donation process on the NHS website.
As a platelet donor I can donate every 3 weeks which I always try to do. You cannot donate blood and platelets, its either one or the other but because my A- blood group is in very high demand for platelets I will always follow platelet route as I can donate regularly.
If you are not able to donate platelets why don’t you try donating blood if you don’t already, it is painless and safe. My wife Sarah who cannot stand the sight of blood gives blood so I know you can do it. Further information is available for platelet donation at Save a Life Give Platelets and blood donations at Give Blood.