Milford area Red Cross in need of blood donors

MILFORD – The Red Cross has an emergency need for eligible blood donors as surgeries and other procedures ramp up as the coronavirus pandemic recedes.

The need is especially great for platelet donations, which are primarily given to cancer patients during treatment. Platelet donations must be transfused within five days and are always in high demand due to their short shelf life.

“Many cancer patients, especially those going through chemotherapy, will have a need for blood products during treatment,” Red Cross medical director Dr. Baia Laskya said. “When someone donates blood or platelets, they may not only help prevent life-threatening bleeding that can cause stroke or relieve some symptoms like shortness of breath and headaches, but also give patients and their families the time and hope they need to fight back.”

White platelets circulate through a person’s blood and are the first step in preventing a clot. There are a number of reasons why a patient might need a platelet transfusion.

“Their body might not be making enough platelets,” Laskya said. “The platelets may have been lost or destroyed. Or there might be something happening in the body that is preventing the platelets from functioning properly.”

Laskya said nearly half of our platelets are transfused to patients with cancer, particularly those with leukemia, those receiving chemotherapy and those undergoing a bone marrow or stem cell transplant – that includes both adults and children.

Patients with cancer may need platelet transfusions several times a week or even daily. This can go on for months depending on the severity of the disease.

If patients don’t receive platelet transfusions, they are at risk for severe bleeding complications including stroke.

Laskya said that other patients that require platelet transfusions are trauma patients and newborn premature babies who may be dependent on a platelet donation for the first several months of their lives.

“Nearly any blood type is ideal for platelet donations, especially if you are A positive, B positive, O positive or AB,” she said. “There are no additional height or weight requirements for donating platelets.”

The process of donating platelets is different than donating whole blood. An automated process is used, which draws the blood and separates it into its component parts and some of the platelets are collected in a bag and then everything is returned to the donor.

“The process takes a little bit longer than a whole blood donation,” Laskya said. “It occurs at one of are donor centers. We have great collection staff that will tend to your needs and treat you with streaming movies and warm blankets to ensure you have a successful and comfortable platelet experience. And of course, you get juice and snacks afterwards.”

To become a donor, visit redcrossblood.org/platelets.