Something you will probably not know about me is, I donate Platelets. Have you even heard of such a thing?
You are probably now wondering what platelets and plasma are…
What are Platelets and Plasma?
Platelets are the tiny gold-coloured cells in your blood which help it clot and stop bleeding.
People who have cancer, or who have lost a lot of blood after an accident, organ transplant or surgery can also be helped by platelet transfusions.
Plasma carries out several functions in the body, including the transportation of cells and vital proteins that enable blood to clot and fight disease.
Why do I donate?
I used to donate blood and was totally unaware about platelets, but then they asked me if I would donate. My brother had cancer at the age of 16, and my mother has had breast cancer twice. I also have a number of my friends who have had cancer (as all of us do) so I felt it was the least I could do to help support them and others in the same predicament.
I have been donating for about eight years now. To make these donations I usually make a round trip of up to 100 miles from my Wiltshire home.
What happens when you donate?
I have to be careful about what I eat and drink for 48 hours before I give my platelets. I have to avoid fatty foods, so no fried breakfasts or takeaways are allowed, as they can affect the quality of my donation.
I also have to avoid taking ibuprofen, aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs, and obviously at the moment I have to take a Covid19 test.
What I have to do, is drink plenty of liquids and stay hydrated.
On arrival to donate, I am given a 500 ml drink, again to help with my hydration and my wellbeing during and after I donate.
I then have a health check to ensure that I am fit to donate, one being, to check my iron levels are high enough.
From signing in to leaving the building can take up to two hours to donate my platelets and plasma. I have A negative blood which means my platelets and plasma can be used by anyone. I’m known as a 2+1 donor- meaning that I donate two bags of platelets and one bag of plasma each time.
Over the last few years, I have made 376 donations, including plasma. The Guinness Book of Records has the maximum at 1,498 credited units, but that person has been donating since he was 16, and is still donating – so no chance of me catching him up!
The process is a little like giving blood – the main difference being that after my blood is taken it goes into the platelet machine, where the blood spins around to collect the platelets and plasma, and then as the extracted platelets and plasma are stored in separate bags, the rest of my blood is returned to my body.
Because the blood is returned to my body during the donation, it means I can donate platelets more often than I would be able to give blood. In fact, I donate every three weeks.
Once my platelets are donated they only last for seven days, which is also why I regularly donate.
Plasma is frozen to preserve its quality and function.
What are donations used for?
One donation can help up to three adults and 12 children – and, for me, that’s huge and gratifying. It can help them immediately too.
Most donations help people who are undergoing cancer treatment, and they can help avoid blood loss during chemotherapy.
69% of donations go to people with cancer.
17% to people who have undergone surgery.
8% helps people with medical conditions.
5% goes to adults in intensive care.
1% helps babies in intensive care.
It is worth considering and if you want to find out more please speak to your GP about it first.