Platelets: Donation to Save Lives

July 25, 2013

A loyal donor, Paul Marquardt has been donating

platelets at Mercy for approximately 20 years. 

Summer is a notoriously difficult time for blood donation facilities. Vacations and other activities often get in the way. Schools aren’t in session which also limits the frequency and locations for mobile blood drives. In addition to whole blood donation shortages, platelets levels are also lower in the summer months.  

Many people don’t fully understand what platelets are or what the platelet donation process involves.

Platelets circulate in the blood and help form clots to stop bleeding. They are in high demand, and at Mercy primarily go to cancer and leukemia patients. Some cancer treatments cause a loss of platelets. These specialized blood cells help control blood clotting. When platelet levels fall too low, patients are given a transfusion of platelets to replenish their supply and prevent life-threatening hemorrhages. Some patients, especially those who have had a bone marrow transplant or who are being treated for leukemia, may require daily platelet transfusions for several weeks.

Platelets are very fragile and unlike red blood cells have a shelf life of just five days. They are collected through a tubing system that is new and sterile for every donation. Through the use of magnets and centrifuges, a special machine only collects the platelet portion of blood returning all other blood components to the donor. It can take as many as a dozen bags to accumulate a single unit (enough for one patient), making each donation even more important.

Giving platelets is similar to a whole blood donation experience, but there are a few differences:

  • Appointments are preferred and we ask donors to plan on two hours for the process.
  • Donors should not take aspirin or aspirin products 36 hours prior to donation. It can make collection of platelets more difficult because aspirin’s a blood thinner.
  • Platelets can be donated every three days and/or 72 hours after giving whole blood.
  • Calcium consumption should be increased the evening before donation.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 314-251-GIVE (4483) in St. Louis or 636-239-8751 in Washington, Mo. To view a list of upcoming blood drives, click here.

Mercy is the only hospital in Missouri that is mobile for its own blood supply. When you give blood or platelets, you give the precious gift of life to someone.

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