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Platelet Donors In Desperate Need in Hurricane Sandy Affected Areas

blood donations, platelet donations, American Red Cross, Hurricane Sandy

Under normal circumstances, there is always a substantial need for blood donors. But in the wake of a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Sandy, the need rises. The Red Cross is asking today for a special type of blood donation for those in Hurricane Sandy-affected areas – platelet donors, critical for cancer patients and those who require bone marrow and stem cell transplants.

According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. More than 38,000 blood donations are needed every day.

However, after Hurricane Sandy, at least 300 blood drives have been canceled in 14 states, resulting in a shortfall of about 10,700 units of blood and platelets. Dr. Louis Katz, executive vice president of America’s Blood Centers, says that so far, the supplies of whole blood have held steady in the hardest hit areas, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, thanks in part to their well-coordinated and well-practiced distribution system that shuttles blood efficiently from one part of the nation to the other.

But it won’t last forever. “Patients will still need blood despite the weather,” said Dr. Richard Benjamin, chief medical officer of the American Red Cross. “It is critical that those in unaffected areas make an appointment to donate blood as soon as possible.” And platelet donations are among those in greatest need.

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Platelets are the smallest of the three major types of blood cells and produced in the bone marrow. A normal platelet count is 150,000 to 350.000 per microliter of blood. Their principle function is to prevent bleeding. Doctors use donated platelets to treat a condition called thrombocytopenia, in which there is a shortage of platelets. Certain cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, can damage the bone marrow and destroy blood stem cells. Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, can also damage these cells.

But, unfortunately, platelets are less stable than red blood cells. Stored at room temperature, platelets have a shelf life of just five days, compared with 42 days of refrigerated blood cells. There are also fewer platelet donors in the US than whole blood donors. Therefore, more donations of platelets are needed as soon as possible.

Donating platelets takes longer than a typical blood donation, says Katz – 2 hours compared with 45 minutes. But it is just as painless, and one donation can provide enough for a full therapeutic dose for a patient in need. Call 1-800-RED-CROSS for platelet donation opportunities near you.

Of course, there is always the need for blood as well, particularly those with a rare blood type, such as AB. But if you would rather donate something that everyone in the Hurricane-affected areas may need, the American Red Cross is accepting monetary donations. These will go farther than sending clothing or supplies. Text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief. The donation will show up on your wireless bill or be deducted from your balance if you have a prepaid phone.

For other organizations helping with Hurricane relief, visit Today.com for a list.

American Red Cross
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center