Early last year, Mark Kraus, who regularly makes apheresis blood donations, was asked to make a special donation. A young girl with leukemia desperately needed platelets, the element that helps blood to clot. As soon as he donated his platelets at the American Red Cross Carriage Place Donation Center, they were transported to the hospital for her transfusion.
“Since I feel blessed in being healthy, the least I could do is help people who have health problems,” Mark said.
Mark was already an experienced whole-blood donor when he learned about apheresis donation. Apheresis allows a specific part of the blood to be collected from a volunteer donor. Apheresis platelet donors like Mark give two hours of their time to help patients in need, sometimes as often as every two weeks.
During a platelet donation, a small portion of the donor’s blood is drawn and passed through a cell-separating machine. The machine collects the platelets and returns the remaining blood components to the donor.
Because platelets can be stored for only five days, there is always a need for more apheresis donors. Some medical treatments can cause a patient’s platelet level to drop. When platelet levels fall too low, patients are given a transfusion of platelets to replenish their supply and prevent life-threatening hemorrhages. Patients who have had a bone marrow transplant or who are being treated for leukemia may require daily platelet transfusions for several weeks.
Platelets can be separated out of a whole-blood transfusion, but it may require several pints of whole blood to collect enough for one patient. With an apheresis donation, a single person can sometimes donate enough platelets for more than one patient.
Plasma can also be collected during an apheresis donation. People who have type AB blood are in high demand for plasma donations because type AB plasma is compatible with all other blood types. Only about four percent of the population have this blood type.
Of course, there are also thousands of patients who depend on whole-blood transfusions. Whatever type of blood donations an individual makes, there are patients and their families who are grateful to the generous donor whose name they will never know.
“I would encourage you to think about people in your lives that have medical issues, and whether platelets are needed or not, there is the opportunity to help others who need it,” Mark said. “It’s a good feeling to help others out even if you don’t know who they are. I already booked my next date!”
For more information about how to join apheresis donors like Mark, visit the platelet donation section of redcrossblood.org