For maximum impact, donate blood platelets – and save three lives

March 20, 2013 | by Hiu Chung So

Drives for blood donations are a common occurrence, but platelet apheresis — in which the platelets are filtered out of the bloodstream for donation — is considerably less well-known. City of Hope hopes to change that.

The blood-clotting components are essential to cancer patients being treated with a bone marrow transplant.

A platelet donation can support up to three lives and may be as valuable as 18 units of whole blood. (photo credit: Keith Brofsky) A platelet donation can support up to three lives and may be as valuable as 18 units of whole blood. (Photo credit: Keith Brofsky)

“Platelets are the lifeline for our patients during their transplants,” said Kasie Uyeno, manager of City of Hope’s Blood Donor Recruitment Program. “Until the new marrow engrafts and starts producing blood cells and platelets, the patients are dependent on transfusions ... some require multiple platelet transfusions every day for weeks.”

Maintaining a supply of platelets is not easy. Unlike other blood products that can be chilled or frozen, platelets have to be stored at room temperature; this gives them a notoriously short shelf life of five days.

Given City of Hope’s stellar reputation in hematology and bone marrow transplants, it's no surprise that there is a continuously high need for platelets. {C}

“The donor center must recruit about 600 healthy platelet donors a month to keep up with demand; if we can’t collect enough ourselves, we must purchase from local blood banks — which can get costly,” Uyeno said. Currently, City of Hope uses approximately 32,000 units of blood and platelets each year for a wide range of procedures.

But there's a plus side to platelet donation.

A healthy donor can donate platelets every seven days (up to 24 times annually), as opposed to every 56 days for whole blood donations. That’s because platelets regenerate quickly, usually returning to normal levels within 72 hours.

Further, a platelet donation can save up to three lives, because one donated unit can contain enough platelets for three therapeutic doses. It can take up to 18 units of whole blood to achieve the same effect.

And if the feel-good factor weren't enough for potential donors, City of Hope has teamed up with Los Angeles Clippers for the remainder of March, offering platelet donors a chance to win signed Clippers memorabilia and tickets for upcoming games.

So take a little time to donate platelets at City of Hope. You could be saving a lot of lives – and maybe get a chance to watch the playoffs live.

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