When donating blood, there’s actually different components of blood that you can donate aside from whole blood itself. Aside from red blood cells, your blood also contains platelets and plasma which are each individually important for separate purposes. This week, let’s explore each type.
Whole Blood Donations
Whole blood donations are the most common donation given due to its relative ease and quickness. You can donate blood every 8 weeks and the entire process takes about an hour or so. Whole blood contains red blood cells, plasma, and platelets and can be used for a variety of purposes from transfusions to simply extracting certain components. However, while extracting things such as platelets and plasma is possible with whole blood, the yield is quite limited and therefore in order to get a sufficient amount, a dedicated donation process is needed for each component. If interested, you could learn more about the process and how blood donations are being used for people and for fighting the pandemic in last week’s post.
The process for plasma donations only differs slightly and takes just a little longer. While a normal blood donation collects all the blood and sends it off for testing, when donating plasma, you donate your blood as normal. However, once it’s outside your body, the plasma is separated from the blood while your red blood cells and platelets are returned to your body. Plasma donations are generally more robust because plasma can be stored up to a year, meaning that there’s a stockpile of plasma compared to blood because of its short shelf life. Plasma is used for more specific purposes such as helping cancer patients, patients who experienced severe trauma or burns, liver and clotting disorders, etc. but nonetheless its very lifesaving for these individuals.
Platelets are one of the most commonly needed donations, even more so than blood. This is due to the platelets’ incredibly short shelf life of 5 days. Fortunately, platelets can be donated every 7 days for up to 24 times a year for a single individual. Platelets are a necessary component in blood as it’s the first stage of clotting which is very important. Individuals who are undergoing cancer treatment, organ transplants, heart surgery, etc. are in dire need of platelets. Donating platelets is a longer process, taking around two to three hours. It’s a similar process to donating plasma where after collecting blood, the red blood cells and plasma are returned to the donor.
If you’re interested in donating, the centers available to you are highly dependent on your location. There are various organizations that offer the opportunity to donate blood, one of biggest being https://www.redcrossblood.org if you would like to check out their website.
Please consider donating whether it be blood, plasma, or platelets. It only takes a little out of your day and you could help save a life or more.
Forbes Aggabao -Alexander’s Hope Intern