Sherri Gerald remembers very little after her friend insisted that she visit a doctor to have a hot and itchy spot checked on her arm. “I had an abscess on my bicep under my right arm and it turned out to be septic,” said Gerald.
Doctors needed to perform emergency surgery but had to wait because there was a platelet shortage. When Gerald was finally on the operating table she almost died twice due to excessive bleeding. If she did not have platelets she likely would not have survived. Six days later she woke up from a coma with her arm bandaged from elbow to wrist and relied on her doctors and children to bring her up to speed on all that happened.
Platelets are tiny cells in the body that form clots and stop bleeding. Gerald’s blood wasn’t clotting during her surgery and platelets had to be retrieved in the middle of the night from a neighboring town.
From Patient to Advocate
After her emergency, Gerald began researching platelets.
“The more I started reading about them, they’re not just for people like me that need surgery, I didn’t know they were for people that have burns on their bodies and cancer,” said Gerald.
In fact, every 15 seconds someone needs platelets. For millions of hospital patients in need they are essential to surviving and fighting cancer, chronic diseases and traumatic injuries. When they are missing from hospital inventories it can mean a life will not be saved.
Educating friends and family on the importance of donating platelets has become one of Gerald’s passions. When friends share that they are planning to donate blood she urges them to also consider donating platelets. “Take a book, take your laptop; that gives you time when it’s quiet and you can just take a little break for yourself, [while] you are also helping other people. It’s good all around,” she assures.
How You Can Help
Platelets only have a shelf-life of five days—so the need is constant and often critical, for new and current donors to give platelets to keep up with hospital demand and to prevent a missing types scenario when blood is not available for those in need.
Schedule your next blood donation today by using the Blood Donor App, by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or opening the Red Cross Blood skill on an Alexa-enabled device with a selection of prompts such as, “Alexa, open Red Cross Blood Skill” and ask, for example, “Alexa, find a blood drive.”
A blood donor card or driver’s license, or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.