This blog comes to us from Team Captain, Cesar Vanderpool.
A whole blood donation is the most common type of blood donation. A simple needle stick, about a pint of blood, and you are on your way. Hopefully, you are the type of donor who comes back every eight weeks. Most people think it is actually best to stick to this type of donation; however, is it really the most convenient one? Have you ever been asked to consider making a red cell donation or platelet donation? If you are in our shoes trying to recruit these blood donors, how do you get that person to change their normal routine of donating whole blood and convert them into apheresis donors?
The Importance of Apheresis Donors
Once a person has a normal routine, they really do not want to change it, because they feel it is most convenient for them. In all actuality, the apheresis donations can be more important at certain times when needs for specific components are higher. Believe it or not, in some cases double red cell donations can be more convenient. Let’s start out with the double red cell donation first.
There are the requirements for this type of donation, depending on the program, whereby male and female donors will have to meet more specific physical requirements in order to donate. Taking the time to explain the benefits of this type of donation is key in order to convert the donor to a double red cell donor. Although this type of donation can tend to take up to a half hour longer, one of the major benefits is that it is the most often used part of the blood. Red cells are used for trauma situations and surgeries. You only donate red cells every sixteen weeks instead of every eight weeks, so the donor comes to the center half as often, and in reality has more of a direct impact on local blood supplies, as red cells are usually the most-used blood component by hospitals.
Another thing that typically catches donors’ attention is the fact that a smaller needle is used. There is less wear and tear on your arm, because you’re doing it half as often, and there is a smaller needle being used. People also enjoy that since they are only going every sixteen weeks, they are not being contacted as much. Sometimes when going every eight weeks the time seems to go by fast, and the donors feel like they were just being contacted or they were just in to donate not that long ago.
Platelet donations are just as important as red cell donations. Platelets only have a shelf life of five days, so there is always a need for them. Depending on which blood center we are scheduling for, the donor can donate platelets every seven days or every fourteen days. Since platelets only have a shelf life of five days, unlike red cells which is considerably longer, these pitches to the donors we speak with need a little more care and explanation, especially for someone who is used to the whole blood donation.
First of all, it takes longer than the double reds donation process. Platelets can take anywhere from an hour-and-a-half to two hours. It needs to be stressed that platelets are the part of the blood that control bleeding. When there is damage in which a cut is received, they group up there to stop the bleeding and temporarily repair the injury. These are the most-used blood components by people battling cancer and leukemia. If people just donated whole blood and the platelets were taken from that donation, it would take six whole blood donations to get enough platelets for just one person to receive a platelet transfusion.
So although they are needed more, this type of donation is very important in saving whole blood transfusions and making sure that we have enough platelets to last the five-day shelf life in which they have.
Needless to say, it is very importance to consider taking the time to be a more specific lifesaver by donating as an apheresis donor!