Among the lingering effects of Hurricane Irma on our area is critical shortage of platelets.
“Surgeries have had to be rescheduled,” said Jayne Giroux, the director of community development for the Suncoast Blood Bank. “The nearest blood bank we have found that can share platelets with us is in Minnesota. We’re working with private aviation companies to get them.”
Irma has left Suncoast Blood Bank in need of whole blood and plasma too, Giroux said, but the shortage of platelets is especially dire.
Platelets are small blood cells that bind together to repair damaged blood vessels. In other words, they cause clotting. Donated platelets are necessary in many surgeries, but they’re most often needed for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The therapy can destroy the patient’s own platelets.
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Surgeries have had to be rescheduled. The nearest blood bank we have found that can share platelets with us is in Minnesota.
Platelets are very perishable — they have to be stored at room temperature, so they’re only “good” for five days — so the blood bank has a constant need, Giroux said. But the closure caused by Irma depleted supplies further.
“We were able to ramp up collections in the days before Irma,” Giroux said. “But we anticipated being closed for three days, not four.”
It can be more difficult to get donations of platelets than of whole blood or plasma, because the collection process for platelets can take a couple of hours. (Donors sit in a lounge chair and have a video screen and headphones so they can watch Netflix or videos.)
Donors have to wait eight weeks between whole blood donations, but they can donate platelets once a week, assuming that their platelets counts is strong enough.
Suncoast Blood Bank need whole blood also. It needs all types, but especially O positive, which is the most common type. The blood bank usually only has a three-day supply, but the current supply has been depleted because of the hurricane.
“We do need red blood cells, but not as badly as we need platelets,” Giroux said.
Donating whole blood only takes about half an hour, including the time for screening and paperwork.
Donors can walk into a Suncoast Blood Bank location or a bloodmobile to donate blood, but it’s best to make an appointment or at least call ahead to donate platelets, Giroux said.
If you live or work near Michael’s on East, 212 S. East Ave., Sarasota, you can alss donate at a bloodmobile from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday.