I know we are all familiar with blood donation, giving about a pint of whole blood to save the life of others. Others like people experiencing a shortage of blood due to injury, accident, or illness or people who their blood is not functioning correctly. But in some cases, the whole blood is not needed, what the patients need is the blood components. This is where platelet donation comes in.
What are Platelets?
Platelets are part of the components of human blood. They are tiny blood fragments (not actually cells) that react to bleeding from blood vessel injury by helping the body form clots that stop the bleeding. Platelets are formed from our bone marrow, and a normal platelet count ranges from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood. When bone marrow is not producing enough platelets or a medical condition such as leukemia and other cancers or an immune system problem, it can result in what is called Thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count). Anyone suffering from this Thrombocytopenia needs a platelet donation to survive.
What Role do Platelets Play?
Platelets reduce the risk of severe or dangerous bleeding in our body, so they play a vital role in saving the life of patients who are having or experiencing:
- Thrombocytopenia: Platelet transfusion is a lifeline for patients whose bone marrow cannot produce enough platelet needed in the body due to some particular illness or disease.
- Fighting cancer: cancer patients’ significant side effect is a low platelet count. Platelet transfusion gives them the strength they need to keep fighting. Without a platelet transfusion, it may be difficult for cancer patients to survive the life-threatening bleeding they face during treatment.
- Surgery: Platelets also help patients survive primary operations such as organ transplants. It helps in regaining the loss platelet and keep them safe until they can produce enough by themselves.
- Blood or immune disorder: Platelets give strength to patients with blood disorders or when a patient’s platelets are not working correctly.
- Severe Injury: platelets can also help those that have internal or external bleeding due to an injury.
Why Platelet Donation is Very Important?
As the whole blood donation, platelet donation is also much more important in saving others’ lives. Though blood donation is the most common, platelet donation is also essential and much needed, especially when dealing with cancer patients.
Platelet donation is slightly different from blood donation. Platelets are done using the process called plateletpheresis. Apheresis makes collecting a particular component of blood in large quantities possible. In this process, blood is drawn from the body and goes into a cell separating machine. The machine separates the platelet from the blood and returns it back to the body through the second arm. With this, a donor can give 6 times the number of platelets compared to blood donation. One platelet donation can produce more than one dose for a patient who can take 6-8 donors of blood to do.
The core reason why platelet donation is quite essential is that platelet has a shorter shelf life than the blood, which can be stored for up to 42days. Platelets can only be stored for 5days. For this reason, platelet donation is continuously needed to save more lives. Millions of people out there need platelet transfusion to survive. Many lives depend on it to see them through cancer treatment, surgery, and so on. A donor could donate platelets every week, compare to the blood that can only be given every 56days. So, It’s your chance to be a true hero, don’t hesitate to go for it.
How to Prepare Yourself for Donation
Preparing for platelet donation is the same as the whole blood donation. To be an eligible donor, you must be in good health and at least 17 years old. Get an appointment from your state accredited center and be able to pass the physical and health-history assessments. Take your valid I.D along with you and prepare to be in donating chair for at least 3 hours for a complete donation process. But before you go for the donation process, you should:
- Get enough sleep: Be sure to get lots of sleep the night before you plan to go for the donation.
- Stay hydrated: Make sure to drink plenty of water or other fluid in the 24 hours before donation. Consideration should be thrown more in the direction of warm weather conditions. Take at least 3 glass of water or other liquid in the 3 hours before your donation.
- Eat healthy meal: Eat plenty of good and healthy food, calcium, magnesium and potassium-rich food to be precise before donation and avoid fatty food such as hamburgers, ice cream, etc.]
- Avoid Aspirin product: Remember, you must not have taken aspirin products for at least 7days or other anti-inflammatory medications for 3days before your donation.
It may be impossible for you to donate if you have certain health conditions like very high or low blood pressure or viruses like HIV or hepatitis. And you may not be eligible if you recently had gastric upset, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or vomiting. If you currently have any cuts, sore, or rashes or you had recent dental work, you may also not be eligible to donate.
People who recently take aspirin or any blood thinners medicine or antibiotic for infection may have to wait before they can donate. And as a pregnant woman, you are not eligible to donate until 6 weeks after giving birth, and people who have a history of cancer may not be able to donate. If you are not in any of this category, you are free to go and be a hero.
Platelet donation is a safe process and does a lot of good. Side effects are rare, new sterile disposable equipment is used for each donor, so there is no risk of contracting any blood-related diseases or infection by donating platelets. Nevertheless, only a small number of people may feel lightheaded, fatigued, or dizzy. And for some other people, they may have an upset stomach or experience little pain or discomfort where a needle was inserted. According to the Red Cross, some donors experience chills as fluids are returned back to their bodies. So in most cases, donation centers provide a blanket to help keep warm.
Your Benefit as a Donor
Do you know that donating platelets or blood as a whole does not only benefit the patients that received it? You, as a donor, also have your own emotional and health benefit to gain. There is, nonetheless, no end to the benefits of donating platelets and blood. To mention a few, if you are a platelets donor, it will:
- Help your emotional and mental state: Donating platelets means you are giving your time and part to save other people’s lives from premature death. This feeling and knowing this alone have a lot of positive effect on your emotional and mental health. According to the Mental Health Foundation report, helping others can improve your emotional well-being, get rid of negative feelings, reduce stress, give a sense of belonging, and create real happiness in you.
- Reveal any health problems: Before donating platelets, you will be a screen with different types of tests like checking your pulse, platelets count, hemoglobin level, blood pressure, and temperature, which can potentially reveal any of your health conditions.
- Make you active: Many donors claim donating platelets makes them feel less sluggish because red blood cells and fluids are returned to the body after the blood is drawn.
If you are a regular blood donor, you can still give platelets at any other time. As Red Cross explained, platelets can be donated every seven days up to twenty-four times a year when compared to a maximum of 6 times a year for blood donation. It only takes about 3 hours to donate platelets. In the process, you can relax, read a book, watch a movie, listen to music, and so on because it takes time for the machine to separate and collect the platelets from the blood before returning the other component back to your body. A small needle is used for a platelet donation, not like whole blood donation. It does hurt a little for the moment your flesh is pinched. All blood types can donate platelets except for type O negative and type B negative, and they are encouraged to go for the whole blood donation instead.
If you are in good shape and health, it won’t be a bad idea to go for platelet donations once in a while. The benefits of doing this are mouth-watering.