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True Blood: The Critical Need for Platelets


It's a good bet that Stan Voshell will be saving a life—probably sometime in the next week. But first, he'll be going to the local Red Cross blood donation center. He knows the location well, his donation of a pint of blood platelets brings his total contributions, to date, to nearly 50 gallons.

"And platelets are really special, because that's what we're using for trauma victims, someone who has just got of surgery or cancer patients," said Red Cross Communications Manager Tammy Nakamura. "But they only have a shelf-life of five days. They have to be processed, delivered and transfused as quickly as possible."

With the Memorial Day weekend ushering in the unofficial start of summer, Nakamura said the need for platelets takes on a special urgency.

"The reason platelets are so critical is that they have a high clotting capability, so important to the healing process," said Nakamura from the Red Cross Lewis and Clark regional office in Salt Lake City.

It turns out the platelet donation process is a bit more time-consuming that the typical blood donation—it can take up to two hours—but donations can be made more often (weekly) as opposed to regular blood cells, which can be donated every 42 days.

"The actual technical name for the platelet process is 'apheresis,'" said Nokamura. "And donors can certainly refer to that when they come in, but most of the time, people just say 'platelet donation.'"

Donation centers can be accessed at and donors can speed up the process by completing pre-donation questionnaires online.

Blood donation drives are slated at locations across the Treasure Valley throughout the summer. Donors can specify whether they're willing to give plasma, red blood cells or platelets.

"And that Mr. Voshell, what a life-saver," said Nakamura. "We're always looking for the next Mr. Voshell."