Platelet blood
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

How Donating Blood Has Changed During the Pandemic of 2019 Novel Coronavirus

I have been donating platelets on a regular basis over the years with a process known as apheresis or pheresis; but I could not help but notice how the process changed during the last time I donated platelets recently.

How Donating Blood Has Changed During the Pandemic of 2019 Novel Coronavirus

Platelet blood
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

When I walked through the door of the entrance of the donor center facility, I was immediately greeted with a number of warning notices with at least four STOP signs.

Platelet blood
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

One of the warning notices instructs people just beyond the entrance to “Please wait HERE for your temperature to be taken”, which was circled with a neon pink highlighter.

Platelet blood
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

Another sign notes that all appointment slots are filled; and to ensure “proper social distancing”, walk-in donations will not be accepted at that location for the day.

Platelet blood
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

I waited at the makeshift desk located adjacent to the entrance until someone came by to take my temperature. While I waited, I noticed that all of the phlebotomists looked like they were wearing suits to protect them from hazardous materials; and they were all wearing face masks. In fact, all donors are required to wear masks while in the facility, which is another recent change in official policy.

Once my temperature was taken, I then attempted to check in at the regular desk. Despite multiple attempts, the scanner would not accept either my official blood donor card or my driver’s license. I had to input my information into the laptop computer manually.

After that part of the process was completed, I was taken into a private room for a screening to ensure that I was qualified to donate platelets on that day — which included once again taking my temperature. The screening process consumed more time than usual.

When I was finished with the screening process, I was guided to the chair which would be my home for the next couple of hours. A few droplets were still on the vinyl parts of the chair from where they sprayed disinfectant, which was not part of the procedure prior to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic.

Another difference was that a clean rubber glove covered the item with which I was to squeeze for the next couple of hours while my platelets were being collected. Prior to that change in procedure, I had no idea when that item to be squeezed was last cleaned — if it was cleaned at all.

Platelet blood
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

At least three of the chairs in the area where donations occur had light blue signs on them which had the words DO NOT USE in capital letters written on them with a thick black marker.

The tables in the canteen area — where all of the snacks, water, and juices are located for donors to replenish themselves once their donations are completed — were spaced apart as far as possible; and other furniture in the lobby area was spaced as far apart as possible as well.

Another change in policy is that you cannot donate any blood or products of blood for 28 days following travel to China and its special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Iran, Italy and South Korea; or if you have been diagnosed with — or have had contact with anyone with — a suspected or confirmed case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

Find out additional information pertaining to what you should know about 2019 Novel Coronavirus and the enhanced blood donation safety protocols of the American Red Cross.

Critical Shortage: Consider Donating Blood, Platelets, Plasma, or Red Blood Cells

The American Red Cross now faces a severe shortage of blood and blood products due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic. Healthy eligible individuals are urgently needed to book an appointment now to donate blood and blood products to help patients who count on blood to literally save their lives.

You should not hesitate to give or receive blood, as donating blood is a safe process. Watch this video on the safety and need for blood donations.

Keep in mind that as a frequent traveler, I had not been able to donate any blood products — including platelets — at times, depending on where I had traveled within the prior year. For example, I traveled to Panama several years ago and I was not allowed to give blood or platelets for twelve months because I was informed by a representative of the American Red Cross that Panama was one of the countries identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an area where malaria is present everywhere. Because blood is not tested for malaria, any person who has traveled to an area known to have malaria present is considered a risk — even if the person may not be suffering from the effects of malaria — and will therefore be denied the opportunity to donate blood for twelve months…

…and in 2014 — instead of the entire country invalidating the donation of blood products — Panama became one of those countries where the presence of malaria varied; so that means that depending on where you have been in Panama determined whether or not you were able to donate blood or any of its components.

To complicate the frustration of travelers who want to donate blood or blood components, the list of countries can change. Ensure that you click on the map above to see its latest iteration before you travel to determine if you will be eligible to donate blood and blood components when you return…

…but even then, I would advise calling the American Red Cross — or wherever you donate your blood or its components — to ensure that you get information specific to you and your travels as to whether or not you can donate.

There are other factors which may disqualify you from donating blood and blood components, according to the eligibility requirements of the American Red Cross.

Information Pertaining to Donating Platelets

This video from the American Red Cross explains the process in 106 seconds.

Apheresis is the process of extracting platelets from your body. Depending on factors pertaining to your body and whether you give a single, double, or triple donation, the apheresis process takes between two hours and four hours to complete from start to finish.

Platelets are tiny cells in your blood which form clots and stop bleeding. For millions of people, they are essential to surviving and fighting cancer, chronic diseases, and traumatic injuries. Someone needs platelets every 15 seconds. Platelets must be used within five days — meaning that new donors are needed every day. One platelet donation can save the lives of as many as three people.

More information pertaining to the process of donating platelets through apheresis is explained at the official Internet web site of the American Red Cross.

My Experiences With Donating Platelets

Platelet blood
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

When combined with the gallons of whole blood and double donations of red blood cells over the years, I have donated mostly platelets at least 184 times to the American Red Cross…

…and that does not include all of my donations to the New York Blood Center, where my blood was diagnosed as CMV-, which means that my blood does not contain cytomegalovirus.

Cytomegalovirus is a flu-like virus which is generally harmless to adults — but it can potentially be fatal to babies. Most adults are exposed to cytomegalovirus at some point in their lives. As with other viruses, once someone has had cytomegalovirus, his or her body retains the antibodies.

Tingling of the lips is a common occurrence when donating platelets. A slight tingling sensation is a mild response to the anticoagulant used when the blood is returned to your body — and the sensation can quickly be alleviated with calcium via use of a calcium supplement.

The temperature of the room was kept purposely hot while I was donating platelets because many donors will feel chilly as their fluids are returned to their bodies. Blankets are often distributed to platelet donors for increased comfort; but my body is naturally hot blooded, so I rarely ever need a blanket.

Other Articles Pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic

This article is the latest in a series pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — which is also known as COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV or SARS-CoV-2 — pandemic in an effort to get the facts out with information derived from reliable sources…

…as well as attempt to maintain a reasoned and sensible ongoing discussion towards how to resolve this pandemic.

Other articles at The Gate which pertain to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus include:


Platelet blood
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

This is not the first time I donated blood or platelets during a virus epidemic or virus pandemic. For example, I donated platelets when the Zika virus was the disease du jour back in August of 2016.

I personally prefer donating platelets because I can do so every two weeks — up to a maximum of 24 times per year — as several recipients can benefit from one apheresis donation. It may take a couple of hours of my time, but I can choose to listen to music, watch a movie or get some work done — and I get to drink juice or water and eat cookies and other snacks afterwards! Yay! How can anyone not want cookies?!?

More importantly — unlike money or material possessions — donating platelets and blood is the purest and most personal way of literally giving of yourself to a person in need. To be able to save the life of someone somewhere who needs it is quite rewarding for me. I truly believe that alone is worth two hours of my time.

If your beliefs are similar, I strongly encourage you to please donate either whole blood or blood components — but before you do, please be sure to read this discussion on FlyerTalk first pertaining to experiencing any side effects to donating blood. I do not suffer from side effects when I donate — but you might, and I would like for you to be safe and healthy if and when you decide to save the life of someone in need.

Sadly — if there was any disadvantage to extensive travel — it is that you might eventually be in a location considered too risky for donating blood or its components. Unfortunately, donating blood and blood products do not always coincide well with each other, as there are certain areas of the world which are considered at risk — and the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus only complicates that fact.

The process of donating blood or products of blood is now longer — but perhaps the reason is for the phlebotomists to get used to the new procedures. Do not let that deter you from doing more than your fair share of helping the planet get through this current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic: maintain a safe distance of at least six feet from the next person, wash your hands properly on a regular basis, and donate either whole blood or blood products.

You could save at least one life.

All photographs ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

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