Urgent call for blood donations, especially platelets

Platelet donors needed! A shortage of blood platelets has UAB and the Red Cross asking donors to step up.

BloodPlatelet2UAB Hospital and the American Red Cross have issued an urgent call for blood donors, especially those who can donate platelets. The Red Cross is currently experiencing a shortage of platelets and type O red blood cells.

“Platelets are extremely important in cancer treatment, including bone marrow transplants. They are also essential during major surgery, such as cardiac surgery or liver transplants,” said Marisa Marques, M.D., director of Transfusion Services at UAB Hospital and a professor in the Department of Pathology

Platelet donation uses a machine to extract just the platelets and then returns the rest of the blood back to the donor. From start to finish, it takes about three hours to donate platelets.

A person can donate platelets up to 24 times a year, compared to a maximum of six times for whole blood donation.

“Many donors relax, watch a movie or listen to music while donating platelets,” Marques said. “In a few hours, they will have donated enough platelets to help as many as three patients.” 

Many donors say platelet donation is their “me time” to unwind from the daily stresses of life while helping save lives. And as an added incentive, a smaller needle is used for a platelet donation compared to a traditional whole blood donation, so some donors find it to be more comfortable.

Platelet donation is done by appointment at the Red Cross Birmingham Blood Donation Center, 700 Caldwell Trace, Birmingham, AL 35242. Go to https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive to schedule an appointment.