MD Anderson faces critical blood platelet shortage

Author: Rachel McNeill, Anchor/Medical Expert, rmcneill@kprc.com
Published On: Dec 12 2012 04:55:31 PM CST   Updated On: Dec 12 2012 05:39:24 PM CST
HOUSTON -

As we all get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, blood donation is probably the last thing on many people's minds.

But, right now there is a critical shortage of platelet donations affecting patients right here in the Houston area.

David Pruitt has dozens of medications helping his body fight a bone marrow disorder he was diagnosed with last April.

David told Local 2, "My fatigue level seemed to go down. I noticed I was bruising real easy."

The wrestling coach and economics teacher at Langham Creek High School underwent three rounds of chemotherapy at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center. He had a successful bone marrow transplant and received blood and platelet donations daily while in the hospital.

Now he said, "Because of the shortage of blood, (the hospital) lowered the parameters before I need blood. Whereas it used to be 20,000 platelets, now we're down to 10,000. So my chances of getting cut or bruised go up because I can't take platelet transfusions because they don't have enough, and they're trying to save that for someone who might be critical."

He isn't alone. Postings can be found on social media sites informing people about a critical blood platelet shortage and the desperate need for donations.

MD Anderson Blood Bank Community Representative Andrea Johnson told Local 2, "We are finding (social media) very helpful. It's a different way of spreading the word."

MD Anderson reports this past Thanksgiving holiday was one of the toughest in recent memory with respect to platelet shortages.

Johnson said while it's a nationwide problem, MD Anderson is one of the largest users of blood and blood products in the country.

She explained, "Whole blood composes of red cells, platelets and plasma. Platelets specifically are the clotting factors for your blood. So when patients are susceptible to internal bleeding, like leukemia patients, platelets is the product that they need to most."

MD Anderson prepares for such shortages, so representatives so patient care is not compromised.

Hundreds of David's friends and family have donated in his honor, including his wife and son.

Ann Pruitt told Local 2, "For me, I never donated and then when someone you know and love, you know that they need it. You save someone's life when you do it. it's just a part of you and you save someone else

David Pruitt added, "The hospitals, it's not like they open their doors and let people out for the holiday. The demand is still very high ... during the holidays, it seems like everybody gets wrapped up in their own stuff. They've got family coming over and (donation) becomes a secondary thing, so they don't think about it that much. But that might be the time. That's the spirit of giving."

Just about any who qualifies to donate blood can give platelets.

It takes about an hour and a half and you can do it every couple of days up to 24 times a year.