Donating platelets

56 - Sara MillsAfter graduating from university I was offered an amazing opportunity to undertake a year internship at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. I could not have hoped to start my career in a more friendly and dynamic organisation. The hospital’s collaborative culture and the determination of my colleagues to improve patient care was truly inspiring. It was here that I first encountered NHS Change Day and I couldn’t wait to get involved.

The incredible work done by the NHS Blood and Transplant Service has always been close to my heart, I had been a regular blood donor for many years but it wasn’t till I shadowed one of my colleagues on the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit that I found out about the urgent need for more platelet donors and the vital importance of platelets to some of the hospital’s sickest children. Most platelet donations are given to patients who are unable to make enough platelets in their bone marrow. For example, patients with leukaemia or other cancers may have too few platelets as the result of their disease or treatment. Platelets are crucial to many types of patients, but with a shelf life of just a few days, more donors are always needed.

The first step started at my next whole blood donation. Along with the routine blood samples, another sample was taken to measure my platelet count to make sure it was high enough. Once I got the green light it was time to book my first platelet donor appointment. I was really nervous attending my first session but the lovely staff soon put me at ease and it wasn’t painful at all! The donation process takes approximately 90 minutes but with cups of tea, unlimited biscuits and lots of friendly faces, it doesn’t feel very long at all. During the procedure, blood is withdrawn from your arm, mixed with anticoagulant to prevent clotting and processed in a machine to separate the platelets. The rest of the blood is then returned to you, which is why it is safe to donate at a much higher frequency than whole blood. Platelet donors may donate up to 24 times a year with a minimum interval between donations of 14 days.

After starting a demanding role in the finance sector I was delighted to find out my new local donor centre in Poole ran both weekday and weekend sessions so I could continue to donate in a way that was flexible to my lifestyle. I try to donate every 2-3 weeks, the staff are always so welcoming and I love meeting and chatting with other donors and have made some wonderful lifelong friends!

I have known friends and family who have received transfusions and used to take it for granted that there would always be enough blood and platelets for them, now I am playing my part in making sure that there is. Last week I made my 25th milestone platelet donation. It is amazing thinking back to the difference a year can make. I am so proud to be a platelet donor and I love that the excitement and momentum surrounding NHS Change Day can help me spread the word for such a fantastic cause.

Visit to find out more about donating platelets and to find your nearest donation centre.

If you are going to donate platelets or donate blood for your NHS Change Day action this year, then share this at and inspire others.
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