I made a trip to the Blood Bank of Delmarva today to donate blood. I've donated countless times. The first time I ever donated, I was scared shitless. In fact, I signed up for a blood drive in college under false pretenses. I had gained my freshman fifteen, and I used the blood drive as a weight loss motivator. I figured since I was so scared, I'd be sure to loose those 15 pounds--which would have made me ineligible to donate. Apparently, the junk food, the booze and the "ice your own cupcakes" were far too important. On the day of the blood drive, I met the weight requirement....and I donated. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Since then, I've donated over 10 gallons of blood.
About six years ago, I began donating platelets. This procedure is a bit more complicated and time consuming than donating whole blood, but it can benefit more patients. During the procedure, your blood is removed from one arm, fed through a machine that removed the platelets, and put back into your other arm. I don't know if I'm correct in this analogy, but I often liken it to dialysis. In dialysis, the bad stuff is removed from your blood. Here, it's the "good stuff" that is removed.
I found the following information on a Red Cross Website. Here's the link. The information on that page has been pasted below too--for those who do not want to follow the link...just because I think it's important information.
In an apheresis (ay-fur-ee-sis) donation, from the Greek "to take away," donors give only select blood components — platelets, plasma, red cells, infection-fighting white cells called granulocytes, or a combination of these, depending on the donors' blood type and the needs of the community. Apheresis is most commonly used to collect platelets and plasma.
A single apheresis donation of platelets can provide as many platelets as 5 whole blood donations. In addition, a platelet transfusion from a single donor greatly reduces the chances of an immune system reaction to the transfusion. Bone marrow transplant, cancer and leukemia patients whose immune systems are already compromised, benefit particularly from single donor platelet transfusions.
Apheresis donors' donations go through additional typing called Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) typing to ensure that the match between donor and recipient is as close as possible. Donors are then matched with specific patients in hospitals. Apheresis donors may receive emergency requests to donate for a patient to whom they are matched. Many apheresis donors find the knowledge that they are helping a specific individual in need particularly rewarding.
People who donate just platelets can donate every 3 days for a maximum of 24 times a year.
Who Can Be an Apheresis Donor?
The same good health requirements that govern whole blood donors apply to apheresis donors. You must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.
The Apheresis Donation Process: Safe and Easy
Similar to a whole blood donation, an aphersis donation consists of four steps: registration, health history and mini-physical, donation, and refreshments. From registration to refreshments, the process lasts 1½ -2½ hours. During the actual donation, you will sit in a comfortable recliner, and a carefully monitored machine will draw blood from one arm through sterile tubing into a cell separator centrifuge. The blood stays inside the self-contained sterile tubing and never comes in contact with the machine. After the blood component(s) have been collected, the rest of the blood is returned to the donor through the same arm or the other arm. It's a safe process — the collection sets and needles are sterile, used once for each donor and then discarded. Donors usually relax, read, or enjoy a movie during the donation.
Giving blood--and platelets--is a great way to help the community! A whole blood donation takes about an hour. That includes the interview and time in the "canteen" where they feed you! A pheresis donation takes about 2 hours. At The Blood Bank of Delmarva, there are TVs available and a library of movies to watch. Plus, all of the phlebotomists are wonderful and seem to really enjoy their jobs. They don't even mind wiping snot off your nose after you've sneezed! How gross!
Should you decide to try pheresis, be forewarned. Dress warmly. Something in the anticoagulant they give you can make you really cold!!!!!