People may be surprised that they can play a direct role in the fight against cancer, and it’s easier than they might think. By donating platelets or blood through the American Red Cross, donors can share their strength and help patients kick cancer.
Platelets are tiny cells that form clots and stop bleeding. About two million units of platelets are transfused each year in the U.S., and more than half of all donated platelets go to cancer patients.
“Some cancers and certain types of chemotherapy drugs and radiation can damage bone marrow, where red blood cells and platelets are produced,” said Dr. Pampee P. Young, chief medical officer, American Red Cross. “Cancer patients often require blood products during treatment or after surgical procedures. Platelet transfusions, in particular, are needed to prevent life-threatening bleeding and help cancer patients continue receiving lifesaving treatments.”
Because platelets must be transfused within just five days from the time they are donated, platelet donors have the power to help save up to three lives within days of their donation.
In addition to cancer patients, platelets and blood are needed every day for lifesaving surgeries, traumas and those living with blood disorders. The Red Cross must collect more than 2,500 platelet and about 13,000 blood donations every day for patients at about 2,500 hospitals nationwide. In the Northern California Blood Services Region, 129 platelet and 232 blood donations are needed each day.
How to donate platelets
Platelet donation is available at the following Red Cross blood donation centers. Appointments are encouraged and can be made using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org/Cancer or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Local Platelet Donation Centers: North Stockton Blood Donation Center, 2888 W. March Lane; Modesto Blood Donation Center, 1900 W. Orangeburg Ave.; Turlock Blood Donation Center, 655 E. Hawkeye; Sonora Blood Donation Center, 850 Sanguinetti Road.
During a platelet donation, blood is collected by a device that separates platelets, along with some plasma, from whole blood, and the remaining blood components are returned to the donor. The entire process takes about two to three hours, and donors are encouraged to relax during the donation – videos, television and wireless internet are available. Platelets may be donated every seven days, up to 24 times a year.
How to donate blood
Blood donations can be made at a couple of local upcoming blood drives. Eligible donors of all blood types, especially type O, are urged to make an appointment to give now. Simply download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to make a blood donation appointment. In Oakdale, a drive is set for Tuesday, April 2 at Ball Metalpack, 300 W. Greger St., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and in Escalon, donors can give on Tuesday, April 9 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Christian Reformed Church, 2203 California St.
A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, from a computer or mobile device. To get started and learn more, visit RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass and follow the instructions on the site.
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit them on Twitter at @RedCross.