If You Can’t Donate, Then Donate

15 Jun

Plastic bag for blood platelets.

These days donating to a good cause is tough for most everyone.  Whether it be money, time, or items, we seem to be strapped for all these and more.

As a healthcare professional, part of my rotations included infusion therapy…and I loathed it.  Bored, restless, and itching for something more rousing (like getting my eyes poked out), I opted to bide my slothful time there by donating platelets – the most time-consuming procedure available (2 hours) – hoping the stretch would pass along faster.  The phlebotomist agreed and suggested I select a movie from the menu.  I thought to myself, “A MOVIE!? Wow! Hey, no problem!”  I don’t remember what movie I chose, but by heart I consider that moment the beginning of many donations I have made over the years.  Reflecting back on how dreadful I felt during the rotation, it was actually one of the best gifts I could have ever been given to give.

Giving to others brings us all just a little bit closer together.  It has been noted that it can also be self-healing.  If you’re up for the challenge to contribute, but just can’t make the means meet the ends, consider blood donation.

Blood Types:  A, B, AB, and O.  O+ is the most common blood type.  O- is the most universal donor since most people can accept it with positive results.  AB+ is the most common recipient since people with this blood type can accept most blood types positively.

Blood Components:

Red Blood Cells (RBCs) – RBCs are the most abundant components of the blood and carry oxygen to other parts of your body.  They have many more functions, but let’s just stick to the basics.

White Blood Cells (WBCs) – WBCs are responsible for fighting off infections and there are a handful of various types that specifically attack different ailments (ex: bacterial vs. viral).

Plasma – Blood plasma is the liquid component, making up more than half of our blood, in which the cells are suspended.  It is made of proteins, minerals, and other compounds.  Without it, our blood would not “flow”.

Platelets – Platelets control bleeding.  When we get a cut, platelets help stop the bleeding (ex: scabs).

Types of Donation:

1.  Whole Blood – This is the most common donation and typically the swiftest.  From registration to snacks, the average donor will typically spend about an hour and a pint of blood.  RBCs typically have a shelf life of 45 days.

2.  Platelet Apheresis – Apheresis is when a donor receives their blood back once some components have been removed.  Each site is different, but I have been given two options.  The first option is to have your blood drawn from one arm into a cell-separating machine where it collects the component (platelets) and then returns the blood in the same arm back to the donor – this typically takes about 2.5 hours.  The second option is to have your blood drawn from one arm and then returned through the other arm, saving you about a half an hour.  (Better hope for a non-nose-itching session.)  The upside is that most places offer movies and/or TV as a means to make your stay more comfortable.  And above all else, you could be saving someone’s life.  Platelet donation is useful for patients with blood disorders, cancer, or leukemia. The body replaces the donated platelets within 48 hours.  Platelets can be donated every 7 days and typically have a shelf life of only 5 days.

3.  Plasma Apheresis.  Plasma apheresis is more complicated and uses only one line for donating and delivering back.  Plasma is mainly used for burn patients and can be donated typically every 30 days.  The shelf life for Plasma is typically 1 year.

Typical Guidelines To Be Eligible To Donate (State Regulated):

  • Weigh at least 110 lbs
  • Be at least 17 years of age
  • Have not given blood in 2 months (8 weeks)
  • Have not recently received a tattoo (state regulated)
  • Are not pregnant
  • Do not have hepatitis
  • Do not have HIV or AIDS or have been exposed to high risk thereof
  • Do not have babesiosis or chagas disease
  • Do not have the flu, or symptoms of
  • Are not taking antibiotics
  • Do not have heart problems
  • Have not had a recent blood transfusion
  • Have had no history of cancer (other than skin)
  • Travel history (malaria)
  • No history of sexually transmitted diseases
  • No history or recent exposure to monocucleosis

The Process:

1.  Paperwork – The facility will request you supply proper identification (ex: drivers license and donor card) and complete a preliminary questionnaire.  Informational documentation is provided to the donor regarding the procedure and other healthcare information.

2.  Interview – A medical professional will pre-qualify you by asking you about your medical history.

3.  Medical Exam –  Your blood pressure and heart rate will be evaluated along with a finger stick to assess your blood health.

4.  Donation – Dependent upon the donation described above.

5.  Recovery – Expect to spend at least 15 minutes after your donation to relax and enjoy some snacks before departing.


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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in Health and Science


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