Blood donation for AB blood type: Donate platelets

Warning: This blog post contains photos of blood. I’m not a medical practitioner. Most of the information is gleaned from the internet. Please consult a real doctor if you have queries.

When I first found out I have AB+ bloodtype, I was not disappointed. “Ugh, no one else wants my blood.”

Being a universal recepient felt like a rather selfish thing to be, even though bloodtype was totally out of my control. (My father and sister are B+ while my mom is A+.)

I was rather reluctant to donate blood. Why donate if it won’t be that useful? (Four percent of Americans are of AB+ bloodtype. I’m not American but I can’t find relevant local figures so I’ll just use that as a default.)

Well, I did try donating blood was when I was 18. The school sent a bunch of us on a bus to some blood donation center. Although I thought I could do it, I chickened out at the last minute after seeing how thick the needles were.

Fast forward 10+ years, my friend Nicole told me that blood donation isn’t that painful so I gave it a try.

I did my first donation at Bloodbank@Dhoby Ghaut which was really convenient if you just happen to be shopping and want to donate blood.

Still, I donated blood half-heartedly since I felt like my AB+ blood wouldn’t be that handy.

Whole blood donation. A chilled 20 minutes.
Whole blood donation. A chilled 20 minutes.

What AB+ bloodtype is good for

One day, I discovered plasma and platelet donations and that AB+ bloodtype platelet donations are very welcomed for both. My mom had dengue a few years ago so I felt the need to donate platelets, maybe as a way of giving back.

Blood donation Singapore

The platelets found in blood are used to treat leukaemia [, dengue and cancer] patients. A single patient often needs platelets from 10 or more donors, all within a short period of time. Add to that the short 5-day lifespan of donated platelets, and you can understand why there is a constant need for platelet donors.

The need for plasma isn’t that urgent since it can be frozen and kept for a year. But there is an urgent need for platelet because it only keeps for five days. Imagine that! Five days and they have to toss out their supply.

Good thing is, you can donate platelets every four weeks. Whole blood donations need a 12-week interval for your body to replenish itself.

WHERE TO DONATE PLATELET IN SINGAPORE?

Platelet donation requires special equipment for the apheresis donation (APH). With APH, the two blood components are separated in a machine and red blood cells are pumped back into the donor. In Singapore, for the Bloodbank, it’s only Bloodbank@HSA that has the equipment for platelet donation.

platelet donation blood
Apheresis donation equipment separating plasma (yellow liquid) from the blood before pumping the rest back.

Whole blood donation takes about 20 minutes while apheresis donation takes about 1.5 hours. It takes so long that Bloodbank@HSA has individual TV sets with movies (usually four movies) on a loop for donors. So far during my donations, I’ve watched Horrible Bosses 2, Night at the Museum 3(?), Paper Towns, and a forgettable movie.

The opening time of the APH center is rather limited too: Tuesday to Saturday. On Saturdays, the place is packed. You’ll definitely need to make a booking before coming down since you don’t want to waste time sitting around.

Are you suitable for platelet donation?

The Singapore Bloodbank is very careful when selecting donors.  There’s a form with tens of questions to fill in and there’ll be a medical practitioner asking you the questions again.

But even if you’re legible for whole blood donation, you’ll still need to see if your veins are strong enough for APH. Blood is pumped back into your body so you’ll need to be able to withstand that.

I’ve been told that women don’t usually have strong enough veins for this. Thankfully, I have veins that are manly enough for APH.

Donating platelet, from the donor’s viewpoint

Two days before donating platelets, do not eat fatty food or your platelet donation can’t be used because it has too much fat it in.

Before platelet donation, you need to have at least one whole blood donation. The nurse would also determine if your veins are strong enough.

Get yourself registered at Bloodbank@HSA, answer the form honestly and pass the doctor’s test and your iron level testing. I’m borderline anaemic so I have to eat more iron-filled food before heading to the donation centre.

After all that, you’ll wait a little more if it’s a weekend. Then you’ll be directed to a reclining chair next to the APH machine. There are four movies in a loop on the TV. Or bring your own entertainment for the 1.5 to 2 hours of donation.

Paper Towns
Watching the yawn-inducing Paper Towns. (I’m just jealous I don’t have a novel that’s turned into a movie.)

Before the donation starts, the nurse will assess which arm has better veins. I was told to drink more water before coming so my veins would be fatter. (But what if I need to pee?)

You’ll go through the same procedure of getting local anaesthesia and the needles poked into you. At this point, note if your arm is propped too high because this would affect the flow coming back. At my latest donation, my arm was propped too high and my fingers went completely numb.

You’re given a squeeze ball. USE IT! When the blood is being extracted, you’ll need to squeeze the squeezy ball to increase blood flow. For the first few times, I had visions of my needles flying off my arm because I squeezed the ball too hard. Then I realized that this wasn’t possible so I started squeezing it normally.

apheresis machine blood
All is well with the green light when blood is being extracted. Start squeezing the squeezy ball when it’s yellow and red.

While the APH machine takes away the platelet, the fluid pumped back into your body consists of blood without platelet and a bit of anticogulent. The anticogulent is used stop the clotting of the platelets and some would mix with the blood sent back.

blood donation

The blood that is returned is colder than the blood pumped out. Expect yourself to feel cold and your lips numb. It’s normal. (LOL) If you really feel uncomfortable, let the people there know. They want you to save lives, not jeopardize your own.

If you do feel very cold, they would give you a warm drink. There is a blanket to begin with so that helps a little.

After all that, your process is completed! Yay, you’ve saved some lives. Now go collect the free food that comes with your donation.

Free food from blood donation Bloodbank Singapore
Free food from blood donation.

Where to donate platelets in Singapore

Bloodbank@HSA

Health Sciences Authority
(Opposite Outram Park MRT Station)
11 Outram Road
Singapore 169078

Telephone: 6213 0626

FOR APHERESIS DONATION OPENING HOURS
Tuesday to Thursday 9 am – 4.30 pm
Friday 9 am – 5 pm
Saturday 9 am – 3 pm
Sunday Closed
Monday & Public Holidays Closed
New Year Eve, Chinese New Year Eve & Christmas Day Eve
(Unless it is on Monday)
9 am – 11.30 am

Give blood, save lives! Have you donated blood before? How was your experience?

More about Liau Yun Qing

Yun Qing is a writer, improviser and curious person. She loves finding little adventures in life. In 2013, she went on a 130-day round-the-world trip. She wrote a book to help those who also want to go on a career break.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.