Platelet donations fall to unsafe level at Austin donation center

Blood and platelet donation bags (KXAN Photo)
Blood and platelet donation bags (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s blood donation center “We Are Blood” is urging the community to donate platelets as the supply numbers have dipped to unsafe levels. Hundreds of people rely on platelets to survive.

“It is a fight. Managing a platelet inventory is an hour by hour evaluation,” said Rachel James, the center’s director of donor services.

Platelets are tiny cells in your blood which form clots to stop bleeding. They are commonly used for patients with bleeding due to severely decreased platelet production or functionally abnormal platelets.They are obtained from a donor by a process known as apheresis. In this process, blood is drawn from the donor into an apheresis instrument, which separates the blood into its components, retaining some of the platelets and returning the remainder of the blood to the donor.

The platelets have a short shelf life — only 5 days. Donors have to sit for at least 90 minutes to pump out the blood making platelet donations are hard sell to volunteers. “I think a lot of it has to do with the misconception that I’m donating blood so you can do with it whatever you want. But it is very different people who are receiving platelet transfusions are often requiring them on a more frequent basis,” James said.

Unlike at various plasma donation centers, you don’t get paid for platelet donations. “It’s something we rely people to do out of the goodness of their heart with all they get in return is some warm fuzzies, some cookies and some juice,” James said.

For patients like Ryan Smith, platelets are a lifeline. “I need platelets every week or two, somewhere in there. And if I don’t have them, I can’t go out, I can’t walk. I need to be laying down,” Smith said.

He was diagnosed with leukemia nearly a year ago. He recently found out he’s cancer free and wants to thank the people who have donated for saving his life. “It’s what’s letting me spend the holidays with my family.”

To donate, you must meet all the regular requirements for blood donation, plus a few more. You must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in “generally good health.” You can donate every 10 days, up to 24 times a year

Platelet donations may be made at the donor center located at 4300 N Lamar Blvd. Appointments are preferred and may be made by calling (512) 206-1266.