I’m stuck here, but my platelets are at the beach!


I enjoy getting these little notes from the Red Cross, letting me know where my platelets have gone:

Thank you for being an American Red Cross platelet donor. Your platelets may be a lifesaving gift to patients in need, including cancer and trauma patients, individuals undergoing major surgeries, patients with blood disorders and premature babies.

After first ensuring local needs were met, your donation on 5/22/2017 was sent to Grand Strand Regional Medical Center in Myrtle Beach, SC to help patients in need. Your donations are on their way to change lives!

Platelets have a very short life span – only 5 days! It’s critical for us to collect platelets continuously to ensure they’re available for patients when they need them. Your ongoing donations are greatly appreciated.

On behalf of the hospitals and patients we serve, thank you for being a Red Cross platelet donor!


Mary O'Neill, M.D.
Mary O’Neill, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer
American Red Cross

I give about every two weeks. (Unlike with whole blood, you can give platelets every six days, but I like to give myself an extra week to recover.) My last donation was Monday. So I’ll give again around the 19th.

Any time y’all would like to help out, jump on in. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.

You might want to ease into it. It would be awesome if you were up for giving platelets right away, but I’ll admit that’s pretty hard-core, and I had to work up to it. It can take almost three hours, from the time you walk into the donation center until the time you walk out. Giving whole blood is much easier, and much faster — and you can’t give again for eight weeks, so it’s less demanding that way, too.

After you do that a few times, you might be ready to step it up. But I know in my case, I had to get desensitized to the process before I was ready for platelets. I had to get over my tendency to get faint at the very idea of the needle going in…

4 thoughts on “I’m stuck here, but my platelets are at the beach!

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Sorry if I sound all self-congratulatory when I write about giving blood. I do have a nonselfish motive — trying to get more people to give.

    And yeah, I’m rather proud of myself. There wasn’t anything else in the world that I can think of that terrified me more than lying there and letting people pump blood out of my body. I got weak and queasy at the very mention of it. I had a real complex about it. But I overcame that, and it took more self-discipline than almost anything I’ve ever done.

    So, you know, yay me…

  2. Scout

    Well I’m impressed. It’s stupid but I get claustrophobic in such situations – hard to describe but that is the best word I’ve found – it’s anxiety over being attached to something and unable to leave – but it makes the actual giving go pretty fast – since my heartrate is like 140 or so. So I don’t do it like I should. I should work on it too.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I get that. And for you, whole blood would be the way to go. I once did it in a little over 5 minutes, although it can easily take longer.

      And with whole blood, you have an arm free. The hard thing about platelets is that both sides are tied up. The blood is pumped out of one arm, and it’s pumped back in — minus platelets but with some saline mixed in — through the back of the opposite hand. You can perform super-simple tasks with that hand, if you’re careful and they don’t require much range of motion — I can touch the screen on my iPad to pause or restart the TV show or movie I’m watching (with earbuds). But other than that, it’s like lying there with both arms tied down for close to two hours.

      The hardest part for me? Getting my bladder to last that long. I’ll go before I start, but if I’m properly hydrated, I might start feeling some urgency again after an hour or so. (That’s the way things work. You might not need to go for 12 hours under normal circumstances, but once you know you CAN’T, look out!) I’ve learned a trick to deal with that: They tell you to drink extra water during the day. I don’t. I drink a moderate amount, and try not to drink ANY for a couple of hours before giving….

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    A weird thing about giving platelets, and maybe a GOOD thing about it, although I’m not sure there’s a cause-and-effect relationship…

    For years, I had to take iron pills to be able to give. If I didn’t, I’d show up and they’d prick my finger to check my iron level, and sometimes it was too low — especially when I wanted to give double red cells, which requires that you score higher than 13.

    Now, I don’t take the iron pills any more, but pretty much every time I go, my hemoglobin is at least 15, sometimes more like 16.

    Which makes me wonder: Does giving platelets regularly somehow stimulate the body to produce, or store, more iron?

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