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Michigan Blood Launches New Platelet Apheresis Procedure in Traverse City

Donors Able to Help More Patients with Single Platelet Donation

Blood donors know the critical role they play in saving lives – whether the anonymous patients they are helping are suffering from cancer, a chronic illness, burns, an injury, or trauma. Because there is no substitute for human blood, donors generously roll up their sleeves throughout the year at one of Michigan Blood’s 3700 mobiles drives or nine donor centers statewide to help patients in more than 40 hospitals in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The majority of blood donations are done by collecting whole blood and then separating the needed components by red cells, white cells, plasma, and platelets in the laboratory. Blood donations also can be done by a sophisticated process called apheresis, whereby just the needed blood component(s) are collected and the remaining blood is returned to the donor. There are many advantages to donating lifesaving red cells, platelets, and plasma through the apheresis process. For the patient, it is possible to collect larger amounts of just the needed, perishable component. In the case of apheresis platelet donation, it is possible to collect the amount of platelets found in 5-15 pints of whole blood – which can make a precious difference to a patient whose platelet production has been impaired. Platelets also must be transfused within 5 days of donation (which include 2 days for testing), so collecting platelets through apheresis is the most efficient way to do so.

Beginning Monday, March 4, 2013, Michigan Blood will offer the apheresis platelet procedure in its Traverse City donor center, 2575 Aero Park Drive. Apheresis donation is done by appointment only (1-866-MIBLOOD – 866-642-5663). The Traverse City donor center has been utilizing the apheresis technology to collect red cells and plasma, which is the fluid that carries all blood cells around the body and contains proteins for blood clotting. Plasma transfusions may be needed by people who lack certain blood proteins because of liver disease, burns, trauma or severe infections. Michigan Blood’s Grand Rapids (1036 Fuller NE) and Saginaw (Tittabawassee Road) Donor Centers also provide the apheresis collection process for red cells, plasma and platelets. All procedures are scheduled by appointment.  Due to the short life span of platelets, the Grand Rapids donor center offers apheresis appointments 364 days per year (Closed on Christmas).

Mark Palkowski, Vice President of Operations for Michigan Blood, notes: “Michigan Blood’s investment in offering the apheresis platelet procedure in our Traverse City Donor Center is a win-win-win.  With this procedure, one donor can provide the same amount of platelets traditionally collected from as many as 15 whole blood donors, so they know their life saving gift is helping more patients. We also can be even more responsive to Munson Medical Center and our other northern Michigan hospitals. Our apheresis plasma and red cell donors in the Grand Traverse area understand the benefit of apheresis and utilizing only the blood components needed.  Also, because apheresis donors are eligible to donate every 28 days, (as compared to every 56 for whole blood donation), our apheresis donors have more flexibility in scheduling.”

Scott Voltz, a science teacher and water polo coach at Rockford High School, is an avid apheresis platelet donor and he is never hesitant to share his experience with his students and encourages those 17 and older (16 with their parent or guardian’s permission) to attempt to donate. “I started donating whole blood when I was in high school. My grandfather was a donor for years – and my mom is -- so I learned at an early age how important donating is to help save lives. The procedure is really easy – I’ve been known to take a nap -- and the two hours are more than worth it to help out patients in need.” 

Voltz’s wife Alicia is quick to verify how vital platelets are. Alicia is a third year pediatric resident at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. She has given platelets to premature babies and young children fighting cancer or recovering from an injury or trauma. “Premature babies who have low platelet counts, or thrombocytopenia, are at risk for a number of serious complications, including bleeding in the brain. Kids with thrombocytopenia depend on the availability of platelet transfusions to decrease the risk of bleeding with necessary procedures, like a bone marrow biopsy in a cancer patient, surgery after a bad car accident, or a special IV when a patient is really sick in the intensive care unit. Our patients rely on the selfless generosity of donors like Scott, and I love how he is always rallying his students to follow his example.”

To learn more about apheresis platelet, plasma, and red cell donations or to schedule an appointment, call 1-866-MIBLOOD (642-5663).


Up North Live picked up the story. Read it here.

Rockford High School students produced a video about their science teacher, Scott Voltz, who also happens to be an apheresis platelet donor with Michigan Blood.