Platelets are donated in much the same way as blood is donated. The process of donating components of the blood, i.e. platelets, plasma, and red and white cells, is known as apheresis, meaning "to take away" in Greek. This process, unlike blood donation, can be performed every three days, or 24 times a year. Platelets are important because they help blood to clot, and are often given to cancer patients and organ transplant patients.
Donation of platelets takes longer than blood donation, because the blood is taken from the arm, circulated through a machine that separates the platelets, and then put back in the body either through the same or opposite arm. The whole process generally takes between an hour and a half and two hours. Prior to your first donation, you will receive an assessment of your physical health through a discussion of your medical history and a brief physical. Donors must be in overall good health and meet the minimum age and weight requirements, which vary in different countries, but are generally around 17 years of age and 110 pounds in the United States.
The list of requirements to ascertain "good health" status vary, and your donation center will provide you with a complete checklist along with your physical. You may be asked to add extra calcium to your diet before making a donation, and to avoid taking aspirin or other blood thinners within a specific period of time before donation. Once your donation is finished, you will be given refreshments such as cookies, crackers, or juice, and if you feel well, you will be sent on your way.
Some people who regularly donate platelets are matched up with a specific patient, and may receive phone calls requesting donations at certain times. More commonly, platelets are donated in a more general sense, not with a certain patient in mind. In nearly all cases, you will not be paid for donating, as you often will be when donating plasma.
To find a location to donate, you may search online, contact a hospital, or visit a local blood donation clinic. Any place that accepts platelet donations will be thrilled to have another donor, and it is a very safe process. Donating blood, plasma, or platelets is a selfless act of generosity that can help save another person's life, so if you are eligible to donate, it is helpful to do so as often as possible.