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Blood Centers Have 'Constant Need' For Life-Saving Platelet Donations

BOSTON (CBS) – As summer approaches there is an urgent call for platelet donors. And with summer vacations, college students out of town, and new FDA guidelines restricting who can donate the need is greater than ever.

"There is really a constant need and the unfortunate thing is platelets can only be stored for 5 days at room temperature," explained Dr. Richard Kaufman, Medical Director at the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center at Dana Farber and Brigham & Women's Hospital.

This isn't a regular blood donation. Instead donors give just their platelets.

"We need them for a wide variety of patients, particularly those being treated for cancer, those having stem cell transplants," said Dr. Kaufman.

platelet donor
A blood donor at the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center. (WBZ-TV)

Those life-saving platelets are separated from the blood through a machine and the rest of the blood is then returned to the donor. While WBZ-TV visited the donation center on an unusually busy day, there is a real concern that the beds could be empty through the summer months.

"It's a particularly difficult time for us to maintain our platelet inventory," Kaufman said.

Adding to an already low supply many moms are now restricted from donating because of antibodies they might have produced during pregnancy. Those antibodies are harmless to the mother but could pose a health risk for platelet recipients.

"It really has cut down the number of eligible donors," Kaufman added.

Blood centers have a constant need for platelet donations. (WBZ-TV)

A Pan-Mass Challenge team hopes to keep the donor center busy year-round. The PMC is a two-day bike-a-thon across Massachusetts held every August and it raises millions for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

One of the PMC's biggest teams - the "Patriots Platelet Pedalers" regularly hold donor drives at the center.

"We also have a large committed group of donors, platelet donors, who come in as often as once a week throughout the course of the year. It's not just the ride in August but throughout the entire year,"  said Jim Sullivan, a 19-year PMC Rider and member of the Patriots Platelet Pedalers.

patriots platelet pedalers
The Patriots Platelet Pedalers PMC riders. (WBZ-TV)

Regular platelet donors like David Mangan welcome some new company.

"It's not painful at all. And [there's] a lot to gain from it too. That's the satisfaction of knowing you've helped out a fellow human being," he said.

The Patriots Platelet Pedalers are holding a donor drive Saturday June 10th.   If you'd like to donate on Saturday or anytime call 888-lets-giv (538-7448) or 617-632-3206 or email

For more information on the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center, visit the Dana Farber website.

The Red Cross website has answers to your questions about platelet donation, including how to sign up.

Click here for more information on the Pan-Mass Challenge or the Patriots Platelet Pedalers.

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