Platelet Donation

Okay, I don’t usually do this, because I don’t like to sound self-righteous or condescending. But just this once, I am going to step up onto my soapbox and write about an Issue. I figure, I spend enough time detailing my quarter-life crisis and babbling about TV shows, so I might as well write about something that matters.

All right then. So: we know donating blood is a good thing. Most schools have a couple of blood drives every year, and so do a lot of companies. By donating a pint of your blood, you could save three lives. Blah blah blah fishcakes, I’m sure you’ve heard it before.

But until last September, I had never really thought about platelet donation. People with certain types of cancer need to receive platelets, which help stop bruising and bleeding. People who have had major surgery sometimes need platelets, too.

But here’s the thing: platelets only have a shelf life of five days. So donors are constantly needed—they can’t just use platelets someone donated a long time ago.

It’s different from donating blood. For one thing, you can do whatever you planned on doing that day—after donating blood, you’re usually pretty tired. Also, the process takes longer, usually an hour and a half to two hours. They hook you up to this machine that separates the platelets from the rest of your blood, then returns your blood to you.

But here’s the thing: it’s actually kind of fun. Yes, you read that right. Donating platelets is fun. The thing is, it’s not like donating blood, where you’re lying flat on your back on a table. During platelet donation, you’re propped up in this big, comfortable chair, and you can watch TV or a movie, listen to your iPod, read a book or a magazine…whatever you want to do that you can do sitting down. And they’re really nice to you while it’s going on. They’ll give you snacks and sodas, and if you get cold, they’ll get you a blanket.

So let’s review. This can give you the chance to watch a movie you’ve been meaning to see, finish your book, or listen to the new CD you just put on your iPod. After you do it, you can do whatever you planned on doing that night. And did I mention it saves lives? I mean, there are plenty of great ways to volunteer, but this can literally save someone’s life. And considering that one out of three Americans will have cancer at some point in their lives, it might be a favor you’ll need returned at some point.

If you live in New England, you can find a donation center close to you here, and if not, you can find one on the Red Cross web site.

Okay. Getting off the soapbox now. But not before I tell you to go donate platelets.

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