Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Because Giving is What They Do...
Airmen help save lives by donating platelets
by Tech. Sgt. Renni Thornton
451st Air Expeditionary Wing
5/10/2010 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Military members on Kandahar Airfield have a chance to help fellow service members during one of the most critical moments. By donating blood platelets, members can help save lives.
The Aphersis Clinic at the Role 3 hospital uses a unique process to extract blood platelets from donors, one of three basic components of human blood.
"Our mission is to collect blood platelets to be used for injured service members who may come to the hospital for treatment. The platelets are essential for patients with serious injuries," said Staff Sgt. Vincent Gella, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Apheresis clinic.
Thrombocytes, or platelets, are tiny oval-shaped cells made in the bone marrow. They are used to improve blood- clotting functions in a wide variety of patients, including those with cancer, peri-operative bleeding and traumatic injuries.
On KAF, the medical staff is more apt to see traumatic injury patients, said Sergeant Gella.
"Let's suppose a patient comes in with a severe injury, maybe experiencing some heavy bleeding. Blood platelets are administered to the patient to help stop the bleeding," said Sergeant Gella.
When large blood vessels are severed or cut, the body may not be able to repair itself through clotting alone. In these cases, dressings or stitches are used to control bleeding.
Unlike whole blood, platelets have a shelf life of no more than seven days, while whole blood can be kept for 30 days, Sergeant Gella said.
Currently, close to 200 military members have signed up to donate blood platelets on KAF, but only 30-40 donors consistently return to the clinic.
"Ideally, we would like more donors," said Maj. Israel Bennett, officer in charge of the Apheresis clinic at the Role 3.
"Not only do we support the trauma doctors here, we help out other hospitals in the region."
Hospitals at forward operating bases may request blood supplies to treat patients there and routinely seek assistance from the apheresis clinic at the Role 3.
The process for donating blood platelets is different than whole-blood donations.
Because blood can only be drawn at a specific rate, the donation takes between one to two hours instead of 45 minutes for a whole-blood donation.
"Since the process does take a bit longer, we offer our donors snacks, cool drinks and they can even watch a DVD or they can bring their own. We try to make them as comfortable as possible," said Major Bennett.
The apheresis machine extracts only the platelets from the person's blood and returns the remaining blood components to the donor.
"The process is conducted entirely with sterile, single-use disposable tubing, cell bags, and separation units so there is no risk of blood-transmitted diseases," explained Major Bennett.
And because the human body replenishes platelets in about two days, donors can give weekly instead of waiting up to eight weeks to donate again when giving whole blood, said Major Bennett.
Major Bennett encourages all military members to donate.
"The first step is get the pre-screening done which takes about two weeks. After that, people can donate as much as they want," he said.