Holiday season hampers UI platelet donations


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This time of year brings holiday shopping, planning, and gifts for others.

One University of Iowa graduate is giving the gift of blood.

"I never thought I would describe getting stuck with a needle as a thing of beauty," said local donor Catherine Krahe. "But it's a really easy way to do good."

The UI DeGowin Blood Center typically sees 3,065 donors annually, though finding donors during the holiday season is often difficult. This year, center officials are offering a Grinch T-shirt for successful donors as a promotion incentive, which seems to be "well-received."

"Sometimes over the holidays, we find we have more trouble getting enough donors because people are busy getting ready for the holidays, and the student population leaves after finals and doesn't return for the most part until mid-January," said DeGowin Center donor-recruitment coordinator Paula Dayton.  

People catching the common cold and flu also hampers platelet collections, Dayton said.

Krahe started donating blood in high school, but she switched to platelet donations while being actively involved in Beta Beta Beta — a national biological honors society — at the UI.

Michael Knudson, a UI associate professor of pathology, said bone-marrow-transplant and surgery patients and trauma victims are a few of the many who benefit from platelet transfusions.

Approximately eight to 15 people receive platelet transfusions at the UI Hospital and Clinics per day, he said.

Dayton said there is an ongoing need for platelets because their life span is only five days. One donor is allowed to donate 24 times in one revolving year — helping 13 patients.

Krahe said donating blood platelets is about good deeds and knowing you have helped save someone's life. 

"You are the person saving a life long enough for someone to get there and save it, and they come in time long enough to save it till another person comes along," Krahe said.

Dayton said the process for collecting platelets is called apheresis. When whole blood is donated, the unit may be separated into three main components — red blood cells, platelets, and plasma.

Krahe said donating platelets is also a good way to spend a cold, snowy, winter night.

"It's going and sitting with your feet up in a chair, getting fed, and being covered with warm blankets," Krahe said. "It's winter, and it's really, really nice to go somewhere to do a virtuous thing."

One of Krahe's relatives was sick for years, and the family have found letters of her saying, "I'm going to get every drop of good out of this blood." Those words have encouraged Krahe to continue donating; she reached her 40th donation last week.

"Her dedication to the UI DeGowin Blood Center and her commitment to helping save the lives of patients as the University Hospitals makes her one of our loyal and treasured donors," Dayton said.

Krahe said some people are afraid to donate platelets for fear of something going wrong, but she is optimistic about donating.

"There is a chance of something terrible happening every time you step outside the door," she said.

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