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An Unexpected Thank You

Every day American Red Cross platelet donors save lives. Most of the time, these donors do not know who they are helping. Most of the time, they do not see the faces, nor do they know the stories of the people whose lives they are helping to save. For Colleen, a platelet donor, that changed after a chance encounter.

Colleen’s Story “I've been a platelet donor since 1995 but it wasn't until a few years ago when I finally put a face to what I was contributing toward. I had donated one day and my arm was wrapped in big red gauze around the needle sight. It was during the summer so I was wearing a short sleeve shirt but I tend to get self-conscious in public because the gauze can draw attention.

I decided to go shopping after donating and was standing in line at the store when a particular cashier kept eyeing me. I felt uncomfortable because each time he finished with a customer he would look at me. As my time approached to check out his line became open.

When I approached him he immediately asked if I was a platelet donor and I responded that I was. He said thank you and informed me that when he was a teenager diagnosed with leukemia and needed platelets. He said he had been cancer free for over five years thanks to platelet donations.

I immediately got that lump in my throat and all I could muster was, “You're welcome”. It is gratifying to be able to donate, but to hear my first “thank you” from a recipient was so very humbling.”

Should you become a platelet donor? A platelet donation is where a small portion of your blood (about 1/4 pint at a time), is drawn from your arm and passed through a sophisticated cell-separating machine. The machine collects the platelets and safely returns the remaining blood components, along with some saline, back to you. After the donation you can resume your normal activities, avoiding heavy lifting or strenuous exercise that day.

A single platelet donation can provide enough platelets for a full therapeutic dose for a patient in need. In fact, some platelet donations yield enough platelets for two or three therapeutic doses. By contrast, it takes four to six whole blood donations to produce a single therapeutic dose.

Many patients who need platelets are undergoing chemotherapy or organ transplant and have weakened immune systems. A platelet dose from a single donor reduces the patient’s exposure to multiple donors and is therefore preferred by many physicians.

Key Facts about Platelet Donations

  • Platelet donations are collected at select American Red Cross Blood Donation Centers only.
  • You can donate up to 24 times per year.
  • Plasma can be collected simultaneously with a platelet donation. Plasma can be collected every 28 days up to 13 times per year.
  • The donation takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours and may be a single or dual arm procedure depending on the collection device used.
  • If you are a platelet donor, you can still make regular whole blood or double red cell donations. Both gifts are vitally important to patients with life threatening diseases.
  • Call 1-800-RED-CROSS for platelet donation opportunities at a local American Red Cross Blood Donation Center near you.

Learn more about platelet donations at