Vitalant experiencing severe platelet shortage

This is a recurring recording of KOLO 8 News Now at 10.
Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 11:30 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Not often talked about but crucial, platelets are tiny cells in our blood that form clots and stop bleeding. For millions of people, these cells are essential to fighting chronic diseases and traumatic injuries.

“A blood component that’s used in surgeries and 25% of all the platelets that we collect in the country, actually are transfused to our cancer patients,” said Scott Edward, senior recruitment manager at Vitalant Northern Nevada.

Inspired by her mother’s journey, Ellen Thomas started donating blood and eventually platelets, three years ago.

“My mom had cancer, she had MS before that and she always needed blood transfusions,” she said. “It’s such a cool thing when I get that message that says they’ve sent my platelets to a hospital.”

Statistics by the Red Cross indicate someone needs platelets every 15 seconds. According to Edward, the cells have to be used within five to seven days after collection.

“We are in constant need of storing and rotating and kind of managing this component,” he said. “So whenever, we have a shortage of donors coming in and donating this component we really feel it.”

Vitalant is seeing what Edward describes as an ‘abnormal’ shortage in platelet donations.

“Maybe we go for a week but you know, four to six weeks of being abnormally under-collecting where we need to be is getting concerning,” he explained.

Some of the barriers include people being distracted by elections and an increase in seasonal illnesses like the flu, leaving the blood bank’s supply vulnerable over the holidays.

Donating platelet is a longer process than a regular donation.

“You wanna allow yourself about two hours,” said Edward. “We’ll do a test to see if you have enough of a higher platelet count.”

The device used for this process will isolate the platelets from the blood and return your red cells and plasma.

“I can sit here and watch Netflix, I get a snack,” said Thomas. “I just sit and relax and it’s just a time to chill out a little bit and help others.”

A longer yet simple process that can help save a life.

From now to November 30th donors can get an Amazon gift card. To make an appointment, click here.