A Unique Way to Save Lives

Volunteer opportunities and projects come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Some require a great deal of research, paperwork, and commitment.  Others offer quick and easy ways to serve without much hassle.  Regardless of the project size and red tape, all opportunities give those who volunteer the opportunity to make a difference.  This week’s experience proves that exact point.

This week I had the opportunity to donate platelets, a process called Pheresis, at the American Red Cross.  This is not the first time I have done this, but I thought that I would write about the experience in a hope that others may consider doing the same.  Platelets are cells in the blood that help form clots and control one’s bleeding.  They are used to help people who are undergoing treatment for serious health problems like cancer and leukemia.  Those suffering with these diseases cannot produce enough platelets on their own.  The donated platelets allow these patients to get the treatment and procedures that they need.  Donations of platelets are needed, much like blood, to ensure an adequate supply when needed.

I arrived at the Red Cross location where I was greeted at the front desk.  I signed in and received the normal reading materials.  These reading materials give a lot of information about donating at the Red Cross and often answers any questions a donor may have.  After a quick read, I was taken back into a small room where they reviewed my information, checked my vitals, and asked me a series of questions.  This process was very short, but critical to the process to ensure that I was a qualified donor.  Thankfully I passed the test.

I sat down in my chair as the staff began prepping me for the donation.  The process for donating platelets is much like that of donating blood.  The major difference is that they use both arms.  Blood is drawn from one arm and collected into a sterile machine that separates the platelets from the blood.  The remaining components of blood are returned to the other arm.  Since you use both arms, you are required to sit still during the process.  As you donate, a nurse is there to offer you assistance as needed.  He or she is there if you need your nose scratched, you need a blanket, you want candy, or just to talk to pass the time.  Today’s candy of choice for me was the Atomic Fireball.  She kindly unwrapped the candy and placed them in my mouth. The nurses were very kind and helpful as they are willing to explain what they are about to do.  I have donated before, but for a first time donor it is much appreciated.

It took about 2 hours to donate platelets.  During that time I was able to relax and watch television.  Today, I watched the movie The Adjustment Bureau.  It was brought in by another donor who had the same appointment time as I did.  It was a good movie and great way to pass the time while the platelets were extracted.  As the movie ended, so did my donation.  I was unhooked from all of the machines and encouraged to have some food and drink before leaving.  I sat down at a table where I enjoyed an ice-cold Coca-Cola and a pulled pork sandwich.  The food was donated for volunteers by some other local organization.  It was delicious and very much appreciated.  I collected my things and was on my way.

I have donated platelets many times.  It is a great and easy way to volunteer.  The staff at the American Red Cross always make the experience a good one.  The great thing about this volunteer opportunity is that it only takes two hours and you can do it often.  Individuals are able to donate platelets up to 24 times in a 12 month period or about every two weeks.  The body begins replenishing the donated platelets immediately which makes more donations possible.  A person can donate 4 hours a month to giving to others and possibly save lives in the process.  The demand for platelets is extremely high right now.  This demand continues to increase and will continue because a unit of platelets expires after five days.  Just another reason that more people need to research this process to learn if they are able to make a donation.   Please visit http://www.redcrossblood.org for more information or contact the Red Cross location nearest you.  This is an easy way to give and a unique way to save lives.

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