The Western Cape Blood Service (WCBS) currently obtains blood from donors either through whole blood donation or platelet donations.

Whole blood can be donated every 56 days and the procedure takes about 30 minutes. Donations can be made at a convenient blood donation clinic. Each unit is separated into the 3 key components; red blood cells, platelets and plasma.

The platelet donation or apheresis donation procedure is quite different to normal whole blood donation in a number of ways. The procedure takes approximately 90 minutes and platelet donors can only donate at our premises in Pinelands, Cape Town. A needle is placed in the donor’s arm that is connected by tubing to an apheresis machine where their blood is drawn out and spun down. Only the donor’s platelets and some plasma are removed and the rest of the blood is then returned to them. Platelet donors can donate every 2 weeks.

Platelets play a very important part in stopping bleeding in our bodies by forming ‘plugs’ at the sites of blood vessel injuries. Patients that need platelet transfusions include people who have cancer, liver disease, burns and trauma. Platelet products have a shelf life of only 5 days and must be processed within 8 hours of donation. This means that the blood services need to manage the platelet product stocks very carefully and make sure there is a constant supply, so platelet donors are often required on short notice. Red blood cells can be stored for up to 5 weeks.

In order to qualify as a platelet donor, you need to meet all our regular donor criteria and should have comfortably donated whole blood at least 5 times before. You need to have easily accessible veins, should have a flexible schedule that can allow you to donate on weekday mornings, and you cannot use aspirin or any anti-inflammatory within 72 hours of donating.

“If you are interested in becoming a platelet donor please contact us on 021 507 6396. We value all our donors, and we would like to thank each and every one of them for being remarkable lifesavers”, says Marike Gevers, Public Relations Manager at WCBS. “We are appealing to all eligible donors to please donate blood as we are experiencing a critical shortage in A+, O and B blood groups”, added Gevers.