"Platelets are tiny cells in the blood that form clots and stop bleeding", explained HSA Oncologist and Haematologist Dr Lundie Richards. "They are typically used for severe illnesses and conditions including excessive bleeding caused by trauma from accidents or complications in maternity or surgical cases, which means that when a patient needs a platelet transfusion, they need it immediately."

The platelet harvesting process involves an apheresis machine which is used to extract blood and separate platelets before returning the blood to the donors body. It is a safe process, performed in a highly controlled environment by professionally trained staff at the Blood Bank.

"The apheresis machines we procured can also be used to perform emergency procedures such as Therapeutic Plasma Exchange to manage life-threatening conditions for patients who have illnesses associated with abnormal cellular or plasma-based blood components", noted Dr Richards. "The abnormal parts of the patients blood are isolated and removed, then the normal components are returned to the veins with fresh plasma collected from healthy blood donors. Conditions that may be treated with this process include thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), myasthenia gravis, multiple myeloma and leukaemia."

"Demand for platelets is expected to increase in line with the growth in local medical facilities (including those specialising in cancer care). We are incredibly proud to be able to offer this service to the people of the Cayman Islands who are now able to receive platelets from a local supply whenever they need it. Previously, it took 2-3 days for platelets to arrive from overseas; but, with this newest and more cost-effective technology added to our Blood Bank, we can expedite the response time for those in need", explained Laboratory and Blood Bank Manager Judith Clarke.

Platelet donation takes about three hours and the same eligibility requirements of blood donation are applicable to dedicated platelet donors. However, platelet donations may be performed at shorter time intervals - every two-(2) weeks. All blood types may donate.

Persons interested in donating platelets will be required to do a brief platelet count which involves drawing blood the day before or early in the morning prior to donating.

Donations can be made Monday Friday from 7:00am-6:30pm, and Saturdays from 9:00am to 5:30pm at the Cayman Islands Hospital. For more information and to book an appointment, please visit www.bloodbank.ky or call 244-2674. Walk-ins are also accepted.

Persons who have not donated before with the Blood Bank can take a brief eligibility test on its website before scheduling an appointment.

Volunteers can donate platelets every two weeks, which includes blood donors who can donate two weeks after giving blood.