In the past months I have posted a few times on the subject of feeding vampires, I mean blood donations, those previous posts have now culminated in my first platelet donation session as Southmead Hospital. Last Sunday (it has taken me a week to get around to finishing this article) at 12:15 I went to the Bristol Donor Centre in Southmead, and learnt about how a platelet donation works and spent 77 minutes attached to the donation machine.
For those that do now know what a platelet donation is I shall explain. A normal blood donation, such as the one that around 4% of the population undergo once every four months, entails giving just under a pint of whole blood in around thirty minutes. A platelet donation is a form of “component donation” where only one component of your blood is taken in the donation. Blood is made up of five main components; Red Blood cells (haemoglobin), White Blood cells (immune system) and Platelets (the bits that form scabs!), Plasma (the fluid in blood) and Immunoglobulins (antibodies that work with the White cells).
My donation was for three “therapeutic doses” of platelets, apparently they normally only take two doses but as I have such a high platelet count they were able to take more. The session lasted for 77 minutes (as calculated by the machine), during that time blood was drawn from my arm by the machine and the platelets were split out before the blood was pushed back in to my arm! This drawn-return sequence repeated about once every three minutes for the entire session.
By now (six days later) all my platelets will have been used in treatments, as they only last for five days out of the body. Most of the platelets will have been used to help patients undergoing cancer treatments, however there are some people with blood related problems that can not produce platelets on their own so donations are needed to keep them alive. In a normal blood donation they do split out the platelets, but it takes five donor’s donations to create one treatments worth of platelets, so my three treatments worth is the equivalence of 15 people donating blood. Another bonus is that I can donate up to once every three weeks so in the time that five people can create one dose I can donate up to five!
Not everyone is suitable for platelet donation (I am very happy that I am able to help), but almost everyone can give blood. As long as you are aged between 17 and 65 and weigh at least 7st 12lb then you can donate. There are a few extra rules, so if you are thinking about giving blood have a go at the “Donor Health Check” to see if you can.
Oh, and one interesting fact. Platelets look (in my opinion) like beef dripping, and if you have a fatty meal the night before (like fish and chips) then the platelets will look even worse!
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