Platelet donation tips

badge_YS_apheresis.jpgI've been a platelet donor for a year now. It sounds a little intimidating when you read about it. Two big needles stuck in your arm, your blood going into this big machine next to you and then fed back into you through the other arm. Didn't exactly sound appealing to me either, even though I've been a whole blood donor for almost 25 years now.

Really though, aside from the extra needle stick and the kind of loud machine next to you, donating platelets is super simple. Here are a few tips to make your donation go smoothly if you're going to give platelet donation a try.

Set aside at least three hours.
The donation process can take anywhere from 80-120 minutes depending on how much blood the machine thinks it needs to filter through. Schedule your appointment during a morning or afternoon when you don't have anything else going on. It also makes a good and very legitimate excuse to do absolutely nothing for a few hours.

Wear comfy clothes.
You'll be lying around for a while. Might as well be comfy. The last thing you want is to be all fidgety because your clothes are bunching up or riding up on you.

Make sure you're well hydrated.
If you're well hydrated, whoever is sticking you will have an easier time hitting the vein. Since this has to be done twice, you want them to get each stick the first time. Also it helps your blood flow easier.

Bring a movie to watch.
The donor center will have a collection of movies to browse through, but you may not find anything you want to watch. Bring a movie from your collection (something that's at least 90 minutes long) and you won't have to worry about it. Don't bother with a book. You won't be able to move or bend your arms to read it anyway. That goes for e-book readers too. Unless you can read with your e-book device at arm's length, don't bother. If you just don't have anything, you can try to nap, but the staff will keep waking you up periodically to check on you and make sure everything is ok.

Go to the bathroom before they stick you.
After the screening, go to the bathroom, even if you don't feel like you need to. In addition to most of your blood (minus some platelets and plasma), a saline and citrate (anti-coagulant) solution is fed back into you. It's going to make you want to pee. If your bladder isn't fully empty when you start, you're going to feel like you're about to explode by the time you're finished (unless you're one of those people with a mega-capacity bladder). Make it easy on yourself and pee before you plop down on that chair.

Don't forget to squeeze.
Like with regular whole blood donation, you'll be squeezing with the arm blood is coming out of. If you don't squeeze enough, the machine will bong at you or start making funny noises. You don't want the machine to bong at you. It makes the staff think something is wrong.

Take the blanket.
When they offer you the blanket, take it. The room temp may feel fine at the beginning but after about 10 minutes you're going to start feeling like the AC in the donor center was cranked all the way down. Your blood cools down a bit (not much, but enough) going through the machine and all that tubing before going back into your arm. Cold blood = cold you. Take the blanket. It's electric. It will keep you warm and comfy.

Grab a snack and drink after
The staff like you to hang out for a little bit after your donation, in case something unexpected happens. If you feel faint-y afterwards, better it happen there than when you're in the car heading home. There are snacks and drinks available so enjoy some.

If you're considering becoming a platelet donor, hopefully these tips will help make it a better experience for you.