Some donors have made it their mission to help save lives by giving platelets. Donors like John Betzen, of Wichita, Kansas, are committed to doing their part to help patients in need with a dedication that never wavers. Betzen has already reached a major milestone, giving more than 520 blood and platelet donations.

Paid forward

For more than 45 years, Betzen has rolled up a sleeve knowing his donations are helping someone. In August 2011, that someone could have been his granddaughter Sarah. She was born with many complications, including an abnormal opening in her diaphragm. Over several months, Sarah needed surgeries to survive, as well as blood and platelet transfusions.

“'By donating platelets, more people can be helped because you can donate more frequently.'” 

“Our family is very grateful to those donors who donated their platelets and blood,” says Betzen. “This is not something you can go to the store and purchase. We are certain it helped save Sarah’s life.”

Precious platelets

Platelets are a key clotting component of blood often needed by those who are extremely ill, such as cancer patients, burn victims and bone marrow recipients. Unlike whole blood, which can be safely donated every 56 days, platelets can be donated every seven days, up to 24 times a year.

HOW TO SAVE A LIFE: Thanks to platelet donation from her grandfather, Sarah survived several birth complications and surgeries..

“By donating platelets, more people can be helped because you can donate more frequently,” explains Betzen. “It makes me feel good to help fill the need.” Platelets must be transfused within five days of donation. It’s important that eligible platelet donors give as often as possible to help ensure this potentially lifesaving blood product is available for patients whenever and wherever needed.

Individuals who are age 17 or older (16 with parental consent in most states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood or platelets. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger have to meet certain height and weight requirements.