BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan— --
Receiving platelet donations can mean the difference between life and death for some downrange. In order for them to receive this substance, others must be willing to donate.
U.S. Army Sergeant Victor Martinez, 440th Blood Support Detachment blood operations NCOIC, not only works in the clinic, but he also regularly donates platelets to the Craig Joint Theater Hospital (CJTH).
The process, although seemingly difficult, is quite simple.
“Your blood is processed through an apheresis machine,” said Martinez. “Blood is drawn from one arm and the platelets are separated from the blood and the remaining components, then red and white blood cells and plasma are returned back to your body. Essentially, what's left is a bag of yellow liquid that is processed to become a serum.”
Once the process is complete, the platelets are cultured and collected. They have a shelf life of only seven days, which is why the CJTH (which has patients from all over the theater) is in constant need of donors. The Blood Support Detachment here works under the 455th Expeditionary Medical Group to collect from donors.
What are Platelets?
Platelets are the smallest of the formed elements in blood, a disk-shaped, non-nucleated element with a fragile membrane, formed in the red bone marrow. Platelets tend to adhere to uneven or damaged surfaces.
Blood coagulation is vital to the human body. Basically it is a self-preserving instrument to seal off openings in blood vessels.
When platelet levels are low death can occur.
“Generally platelets are used in mass trauma events, so anytime we have amputees, they are given platelets to help with clotting,” said Martinez. “This can also be seen in other surgery patients or those undergoing cancer treatments.”
Who is an ideal donor?
Donors must meet a minimum platelet count. And those who have received blood transfusions cannot donate platelets.
“Essentially, if you have a heart condition, blood condition, you can’t donate,” said Martinez. “Also females who have ever been pregnant are disqualified because the body could have developed antibodies during the pregnancy. Beside that most generally healthy adults can donate, but will still have to be screened prior.”
Because all platelet donations are universal, unlike whole blood, donated platelets are kept on hand to be utilized by any patient in need.
How often can platelets be donated?
Platelet donations can be done every week.
For additional questions about the process, please call 481-2005.
Additional information in this article provided by the American Red Cross website.