(12/18/13) - Most of us know there is always a need for blood donors, but the Great Lakes Region chapter of the American Red Cross is desperate for something we tend to hear much less about - platelets. Platelet donation is not something people typically think about, unless someone they love is sick enough to need them.
Roxy Nyberg has donated whole blood regularly since 1969 - 44 years. "I started doing it when I started working at General Motors. I have no problem giving and it's just a good thing to do," she said.
Today, Roxy is doing something different, a two hour donation process, called aphaeresis, "I don't feel any different."
During aphaeresis, blood is removed through one arm, pushed through a machine that works like a centrifuge, separating red and white blood cells.
Red blood cells are returned to the body through a needle in the other arm. White cells, including platelets, are collected and donated to some of the sickest patients.
"When you cut yourself, platelets go there and heal that - and that's happening inside our bodies all the time. We have a little ulcer, we have a little sore, the body just naturally fixes these things," said Maureen Sharp, the aphaeresis manager at the Red Cross.
Sometimes, patients with certain cancers or who have had transplants or other serious illnesses, do not make enough platelets in their own bodies.
Unfortunately, donated platelets do not last long. Not only are they are in demand, but because they only have a much shorter self life than whole blood, only five days.
"But only four percent of the population give blood and that's where we get most of our donations from, so overall we just need to increase awareness of blood and platelet donations," Sharp says.
You can donate platelets 24 times a year, which is roughly every two weeks. You can donate whole blood once every 56 days.
And, as Roxy found out, you can donate both - just not in the same day, "you can do it quite often, in fact, I asked if I could give regular blood, and yep, after three days."
Platelet donations are needed daily, including Sundays, so make an appointment at the Flint donor center. That is at 1401 S. Grand Traverse Street. Call 866-725-2140 to set up an appointment. The platelet donor center is open seven days a week, and really needs people who can donate on Sundays.
The center is closed Christmas day, but if you donate on Christmas Eve or on Dec. 26, you will be entered to win a Kindle Fire HDX.
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