Dear Dr. Gott: My 45-year-old daughter donates platelets twice a month. The process, called apheresis, takes about an hour and a half.
I donated blood for some 30 years but must confess to some apprehension about the possible side effects of my daughter’s altruism. I look forward to more information about this in your column.
Dear Reader: Apheresis is a process by which a person can donate specific blood components. Depending on the donor’s blood type and the needs of an individual or community, a person can donate red cells, white cells, plasma or platelets. This procedure is commonly used to collect plasma and platelets.
A person simply registers with the appropriate facility, gives a health history, undergoes a brief exam, is typed for human leukocyte antigens (HLA) and donates the necessary component. This process allows for as close a match as possible between the donor and recipient. The mental reward can be unique for your daughter, knowing her specific platelets are helping a person in need. Cancer, leukemia and bone marrow transplant patients have compromised immune systems. They stand to benefit greatly from single-donor platelet transfusions.
Similar to the blood you donated for more than 30 years, a donor sits in a comfortable reclining chair while a machine draws blood from an arm through sterile tubing into a cell separator centrifuge. After the platelets are collected from your daughter’s blood, the remainder of the blood is returned back to her through the same sterile tubing. The procedure is safe, the instruments are sterile, and people who provide platelets only, as your daughter does, can donate every three days up to a maximum of 24 times a year.
Requirements are similar for apheresis as they are for routine blood donation. A person must be at least 17 years of age, in good health and weigh 110 pounds or more. There are health standards and screening procedures in place. Obviously, your daughter is well enough to qualify.
The last bit of good news I’ll provide is that a single apheresis donation of platelets can provide as many platelets as can five whole-blood donations. And a donation of platelets from a single donor vastly reduces the probability of an immune-system reaction to the transfusion.
I appreciate your concern. However, I suggest you sit down at your desk to make a blue ribbon to pin on the shirt of this level-headed gal. Then sit back with a smile on your face. You must have instilled some pretty intense values over the years. Congratulations to you both.
Other readers who might be interested in obtaining more information or donating should telephone 1-800-GIVE LIFE to find the nearest facility. Donations for this procedure are scheduled by appointment only.
To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Blood — Donations and Disorders”. Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed, stamped, No. 10 envelope and $2 to Newsletter, PO Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title.