Saturday, August 15, 2015

My Platelet Apheresis Donation Experience

I know that a lot of us want to donate to charities but don't have the money to do so. Well, there is a way for you to donate without spending anything; and you won't just be donating for someone's education, house, or food, you'll be donating for someone's LIFE.

I started donating whole blood back in college in 2005. The Red Cross people went to our school and tried to encourage us to donate blood. I remember them saying that donating blood will make you look 20 years younger, and we were all laughing because we weren't even 20 years old back then.

I regularly donated whole blood until I left Zamboanga City. In Metro Manila, I found the location of the nearest Red Cross blood center to be inaccessible, so I only donated a few times when GMA 7 held mass blood donations in a mall in Quezon City. A few weeks ago, I learned from Facebook, that there is a new Red Cross blood center along EDSA Boni near where I currently live.

One Saturday, I decided to visit their facility to donate whole blood. The phlebotomist talked me into doing a Platelet Apheresis donation, and I immediately agreed, Platelet Apheresis is a process wherein an Apheresis machine collects whole blood, separates the plasma and platelets from the rest of the blood, and returns all components of the donor's blood except for the platelets and some of the plasma to the donor.

With this process, only the platelets and some of the plasma is collected from the donor. In contrast, whole blood donation is the traditional way of donating blood wherein all the blood components are collected from the donor by gravity.

If you're wondering why Red Cross is promoting Platelet Apheresis donations, it is because when patients need blood, it is normally just the platelets that they need and not actually whole blood. If only whole blood is available, the patient ends up taking multiple bags of whole blood from different donors and extracting platelets from them. This increases the risk of the patient experiencing adverse reactions because of exposure to multiple donors.

Looks scary, right?

The first thing that they ask you to do is fill up the donor registration form wherein some questions about your health is asked.

Then they take your weight, check your blood type, and your hemoglobin. You need to weigh at least 50 kilograms to be able to donate blood.

The next step before the actual blood donation is a blood donor examination by the doctor. In Platelet Apheresis donation, an additional step to be undertaken is a complete blood count exam as well as a blood exam for five transfusion-transmissible infectious diseases, namely: HIV, Malaria, Syphilis, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

While waiting for the blood test results, you can watch a movie, listen to some music, or use the available free WiFi.

Now I'm sure you're all wondering if it hurts. Of course, it hurts! Are you kidding me? They're going to stick a needle in your arm, when did that ever not hurt? But the good thing is that it will actually only hurt for less than three seconds. After the needle is inserted, it is totally painless!

For me, the worst thing about Platelet Apheresis donations is the length of time it takes for the procedure to be completed. In my experience, the whole thing takes about 3 or 4 hours. Note that only an hour is actually spent for the actual blood donation process, most of the time is consumed on waiting for the blood test results. In contrast, whole blood donations or traditional blood donations take less than an hour. Another inconvenience is the possibility of low blood calcium level that makes you feel tingly in the mouth and chilling which is because of the anticoagulant that they give you. But don't worry, because you will be given a high-calcium drink afterward so your calcium and electrolytes will be replenished, and the chilling goes away almost immediately anyway. They also give you a free protein and iron rich meal afterward to bolster up your energy.

What I do like about Platelet Apheresis donations is the virtually zero recovery time involved. In my experience, whole blood donations would leave me feeling a bit lightheaded and weak for a few hours.

I know it! It looks really scary!

If you're considering donating blood, please read Read Cross' FAQ on giving blood as well as reminders on what to do before and after donating blood and what donors can expect from the procedure. The Red Cross blood center is just walking distance from the Boni MRT station, From the MRT station, you will see a McDonald's, which is under renovation depending on when you are reading this. If the first thing that you see upon going down is a 7-11 store, you're heading the wrong way, go back and take the other stairs. Next, look for a Wendy's and head towards that direction. You will then see a Jollibee and a 7-11 store. Finally, you will see a Caltex gasoline station. The Red Cross blood center is located just adjacent to the Caltex gasoline station.

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Last August 2018, I received the Blood Galloner award for having donated at least one gallon of blood to the Philippine Red Cross.

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