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How to donate platelets
How I did it: One of my closest friends is a recruiter for United Blood Services. I donate whole blood for him on a regular basis, and when he found out I'm CMV-negative he began to cajole me to donate platelets as well. So I made an appointment and went on in.
My friend had told me they have portable DVD players to entertain donors while they're hooked up to the machine, so I brought along the flick I'd just gotten for Christmas, which happened to be the HPLHS silent film of Call of Cthulhu. I was glad of my choice because I needed the distraction; not only is there a big honking needle and tube hanging out of your arm for an hour or more, but as they return your blood to you with the platelets filtered out, there is saline solution added that makes you kind of cold. Also I had to chew a lot of tums as this process steals calcium from your system and that can nauseate folks. It does me.
You still have to pay attention to what you're doing even as you watch the movie, though; slack off or get out of sync with your "squeezy squeezy" and the machine bleats and beeps and raises all kinds of fuss. It's kind of amusing in that it brings phlebotomists running, though ^_^
Platelet donation in no way affects your eligibility to donate whole blood. It makes a tremendous difference in the long-term prospects for cancer patients who are suffering enough already. It always feels good to know you're helping save lives.
Really all you have to do is contact your local Red Cross or United Blood Services and tell them you're interested. They'll set up a time and take care of the rest, as long as you're an eligible blood donor!