For the first time last week, the American Red Cross gathered platelets from willing donors in Oro Valley.
The drive, held at the Oro Valley police station, had 20 scheduled donors, with 21 people donating and a total of 22 products collected.
"It was a great success," said Rosa Lee Barbeau, donor recruitment representative for the American Red Cross.
The blood collection agency sent notifications to people it thought would be good candidates for platelet donations. "Every single donor that we called did show up," Barbeau said. "We would have liked to have more walk-ins. We only had two walk-ins.
"The turnout out was excellent. It's almost unheard of for a single drive to not have any cancellations or no-shows."
One of those donors, Phillip Heliotes, described the experience as "great.
"They have a whole bunch of movies to choose from that you get to watch," he said.
Platelet donation takes up to two hours, with an additional hour or so for new donors because they have to be screened and tested, Barbeau said.
Platelet donation is fairly simple from a donor's point of view. The donor is intravenously hooked to a machine where blood is taken out, then sent through a centrifuge. Blood is separated into blood cells, plasma and platelets. Platelets are extracted, with the plasma and blood cells sent back into the donor's body.
A donor can give one, two or three units of platelets. People can donate blood six times a year. Platelets can be donated 24 times a year. Donors are asked to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, beginning five to seven days prior to donating.
Platelets have a shelf life of five days. They are sent to a testing facility in California. If they pass inspection, the platelets — crucial to blood clotting — are often used with cancer and leukemia patients who have undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Platelets are also used with burn victims, and in surgery.
The American Red Cross plans to have mobile platelet drives on Dec. 2 and Jan. 6. People who are interested and would like to get a platelet count may contact the Red Cross office at 229-0190. It is located on the south end of Foothills Mall.
People who donate are eligible for door prizes during drives. Sometimes it's a $500 gift card; other times, it's a getaway at a local resort for a tw