If you thought apherisis was some kind of kinky sexual act, it isn't. But it is important, so as long as you're here, keep reading.

 Apherisis is similar to blood donating. Except is much less debilitating and can be done more frequently. It's a process by which platelets (a blood component) are removed from the blood, and the rest of the blood, red cells, white cells, fluid, etc. are returned to the body. Because only a small component of the blood is removed, you don't even miss it.

 It's important for certain types of cancer patients, those who have had bone marrow transplants. Over 50% of donated platelets are supplied to young people under the age of 25. Some components of blood can be frozen and stored, but platelets cannot. They are alive, are stored at room temperature, and must be used within five to seven days. Additionally, matching is much more critical for the recipient.

 Platlets can be obtained from a whole blood donation. However, only a small quantity is available. So a recipient might need to receive a donation from several different people, and this isn't always a good idea. By obtaining just the platlets from one individual the risk of rejection is much lower. Indeed, platelet replacement is much closer to an organ transplant than it is to a blood donation.

(For a better explanation than mine, visit the Institute for Transfusion Medicine's page on the subject:  http://www.itxm.org/cbb/platelet_donations.htm )

There are several places you can donate platelets in the Chicago area, all operated by  LifeSource.  Lifesource can be reached at (847) 298-9660.  ( NOTE:  sometime during May of 1998, Lifesource merged with the former United Blood Service, in case you remember by that name.  All of the former UBS locations are in service, but operated by Lifesource.

Now for the down-side: It takes longer than a blood donation. It takes about an hour-and-a-half or so. (Rent a movie, that's what I do; they have VCR's there. Be careful of the length, don't get anything over two hours, though. Certainly not "Gone With The Wind.") You sit in a comfortable chair, they take the blood from one arm, process it, and return it to the other arm. It's not at all uncomfortable. It also possible now to donate platelets using only one arm, but it takes slightly longer. You're arms may get a little stiff because they can't be moved much, but this comes out right away, while you're scarfing up the Oreo cookies and other goodies they have. One more important hint: do go to the bathroom before you begin the process.  (Kinda tough to do when you're hooked up to the machine!)

You can donate as often as every four weeks, compared to at least eight weeks between blood donations, so that give you some idea of how safe the process is. It's only a minor inconvenience.

Something new: it's called ALYX (pronounced "Alex") and it amounts to a double-red-blood-cell donation.  Depending on your blood type, the demand may be for ALYX or platelets.  Again, a machine is used, but it takes far less time - maybe only one-half hour.  Also, after an ALYX donation you cannot donate anything for four months.  So if you're a regular whole blood donater every 8 weeks, you might want to consider this.

They give you a mini-physical, check your blood pressure, temperature, weight, iron count, etc. Ask you the usual routine of dumb questions to ensure you're a suitable donor. The minimum age is 18, you need to weigh over 110 pounds.

If you've surfed in here from far away, check the Yellow Pages or your local hospital. I'm sure there a collection point not too far from you.

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