Avera Medical Minute AMcK: Donate platelets and help up to three people per donation

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We’re all familiar with whole blood donation, but a lesser known blood donation that extracts your platelets – apheresis – is equally important.

“It’s a big demand and the supply is very hard to come by sometimes,” said Dawn Ver Hoeven, lab operations manager at Avera McKennan.

Platelets are used every 30 seconds in the United States.

“That is crucial to them being able to bounce back and live a sustainable life,” said Ver Hoeven.

Ver Hoeven says many of the platelet recipients at Avera are oncology patients.

“Their platelet supply can be easily dwindled as they’re immune-compromised and they’re undergoing chemotherapy which tends to deplete your red cells and your platelets. So by getting that little extra boost, that allows them to basically fight off any infections as well as help with their clotting,” said Ver Hoeven.

Platelets are collected through a process called apheresis.

“Apheresis is a process by which is similar to a whole blood donation. The donor is hooked up, needle’s placed in their arm and then through the machine, or a cell separator, we actually give them back their red cells and pull their platelets and plasma,” said Ver Hoeven.

“About five years I’ve been doing apheresis,” said Jerry Vander Lee of Sioux Falls.

Vander Lee has donated close to 150 times. Shortly after he started donating, his mother Ruby was diagnosed with leukemia.

“She started receiving platelets and so once a week, she would go in and receive platelets. And so I really saw firsthand that it impacted her quality of life. She would get platelets once a week and then I just continued (donating) even after she passed,” said Vander Lee.

Seeing how much the platelets helped his mom is why Vander Lee donates every two weeks.

“She would get really run down and then she’d receive platelets -- so then she’d be charged up for a week again. It made a big difference in her life,” said Vander Lee.

One apheresis donation can help up to three people.

“And really the reason we’re targeting the platelet population is platelets are only good for five days. And so after they go through the testing that’s required, we only really have a three-day shelf life on them. So we need a continuous supply versus our red cells,” said Ver Hoeven.

“I would just encourage people -- if this is for you, check it out. If not, there’s something else. We all can give in some way,” said Vander Lee.

Apheresis take about an hour and a half from start to finish and it doesn’t leave you feeling sluggish after you donate. You must be at least 17 years-old to donate.

Avera McKennan is the only apheresis donation site in Sioux Falls.

For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.