Apheresis (ay-fur-ee-sis): A special kind of blood donation that allows a donor to give a specific blood component, such as platelets. During the apheresis procedure, all but the needed blood component is returned to the donor.

Yep… I finally was able to donate yesterday at the RIGHT hospital. If you don’t know the story, check it out here…. Guess what? When I walked in there, however, the security guard told me that she didn’t have any notification that someone was donating last night. I almost hit the roof again, but I said there must have been a mistake. So she made a phone call and whoever was at the other end of the line informed here that they didn’t know anything about it either, then she just looked at me. I said, “Look, this is the second time that this has happened to me.” In a way, that was a little fib (check out why here); but I wasn’t leaving that hospital until I got in, so she sent me down to the lab and said that they would know there.

Great, my foot was in through the door. I made it to the blood “lab”, which was just a blood drawing station. I blurted out to the first guy I saw that I had an appointment to donate platelets and that the woman at the security desk said that she didn’t have any information on it. He told me that she didn’t have the right information. I said that “she called someone”, to which he replied that she called the wrong people. Ugh… He asked for my name, then checked his schedule and said that I was at the right place…. yea! So, sat down and filled out the forms and was interviewed right away.

As a side note, they do this by appointment only, so you are taken right away and everything happens very quick, though they were totally polite, informative and did not give the impression of rushing things. Next, my blood got tested; which tells them iron level, platelet level, other stuff but I don’t remember. I sat down on the very comfortable couch and the guy asked me how much I weighed. I said, “WHAT?” Ha, I hadn’t expected that. I was told that they take the height and weight of the donor, which will tell them exactly how much of a donation I can make and what components they can take. I’ll just leave the part out here because, well, lets just say for confidentiality reasons. He informed me that I could make a triple donation, which means that my total donation of platelets could be given to three people. It was totally up to me as to what I wanted to do, give platelets, whole blood, plasma, or red cells. I said, “Give me the works, we’ll go for the triple platelets”.

I found this whole process very interesting. Did you know that your platelets can be given to anyone? Blood type doesn’t matter. I asked the tech if I could knit while doing this, but he said “no” because I had to keep squeezing a squeeze ball while the machine was drawing out my blood…. shucks! I also brought a book and attempted to read, but that proved impossible because I could not really turn the pages, so I just talked with the blood man and watched some TV. Getting back: He familiarized me with the machine. He told me to squeeze the ball on the draw, then on the return (of the blood to my body) I needed to stop squeezing. The blood goes in, then the blood is separated, the platelets go into a blood bag and the rest of the blood comes back to me. How cool. I watched this happening as a little clear plastic box shows out of the machine and I could see the blood coming in and emptying out as it came back to me.

Oh, I was a “quickie”. Personally, I love quickies! Apparently, 71 minutes for a triple donation is pretty quick. In the beginning, he actually told me the time it would take for each type of donation that I was able to give. How cool is that? Anyway, there are a few things you guys should know. In addition to the side effects you can experience from giving whole blood, there are other side effects when giving platelets. First, they treat the blood with “citrate” to stop it from coagulating. You can experience a tingly feeling on your lips and head, which I felt almost immediately. This has something to do with calcium, so they give you Tums to counteract the effect, but it didn’t help me too much. This was okay, though, because it’s no big deal. Then I started to feel dizzy and nauseous… well not nauseous, but my whole body was something. Vibrating? I don’t know, but lets just say that I was queasy, but not exactly sick to my stomach. I felt light headed, too. I never had this when giving whole blood, so for me, it’s significant…. but still, no big deal. Maybe I’m just a trusting person and I trusted these guys? Don’t know… but I was just so happy to be doing something worthwhile that I was absolutely giddy throughout the whole thing, joking and kidding around. They might have thought that I was drunk or high or something but hey, they tested my blood, right? I told them that I had a toddler at home and this was a vacation for me!

All in all, no problemo and I’ll do it again next month. Yeah, with platelets, you can give them once a month. They get mostly replenished in 24 hours. I did, however, underestimate the toll this procedure took on me. I was planning on spending the rest of the night out, hitting the stores, or coffee shop, or something. Well, when it was over, I just wanted to get home and get into bed. I felt very tired, very drained. So I got home and went to bed early. This morning, the nausea was gone, but I had to take a nap after breakfast, then again in the afternoon, though Little Drake didn’t let me sleep. I just need to eat well, get iron in my system and calcium. I have supplements to take and I bought calcium fortified OJ today, so I’m set to go.

I never realized how much of a special gift, platelets are. Without a platelet donation, it takes 6 donations of whole blood to get 1 donation of platelets. So if someone can give platelets, it saves 6 donations of whole blood. Oh, better explained below:

Why is Blood Separated?
Different patients need different types of blood components, depending on their illness or injury. After you donate whole blood, the unit is separated into platelets, red cells, and plasma in our laboratory. Only two tablespoons of platelets are collected from a whole blood donation. Six whole blood donations must be separated and pooled to provide a single platelet transfusion. However, one apheresis donation provides enough platelets for one complete transfusion…that is six times the amount collected from a whole blood donation.

Who Needs Platelets?
Many lifesaving medical treatments require platelet transfusions. Cancer patients, those receiving organ or bone marrow transplants, victims of traumatic injuries, and patients undergoing open heart surgery require platelet transfusions to survive. Because platelets can be stored for only five (5) days, the need for platelet donations is vast and continuous. The platelet donation process is called an Apheresis donation.

This is a link for the American Red Cross. This has got to be the easiest thing one can do to help others out there. Some of us cannot donate money, but giving blood is free, giving platelets is free, too!

And you get juice and cookies after!

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