KINGSPORT, Tenn. -

During the summer, blood donations at the Marsh Regional Blood Center are down because a lot of people go on vacations. However, blood platelet donations are always needed year-round.

Blood and blood platelets can be the difference between life and death for some people who are seriously injured. That's why Al Whitney has dedicated his life to donating. "If 100 people were in the room, only 1.8 right would be blood donors. We have to increase that average," he said.

Al says now he's turned his focus on donating blood platelets because there is a constant need. "When a patient goes under radiation chemotherapy, their platelets are killed off," he explained.

Trauma patients like people injured in a car accident also rely on them, but what exactly is a blood platelet? "Platelets are small cells in your bloodstream, and they serve an important role in the clotting process," says Steffanie Sukel.

Steffanie Sukel is the donor processing manager at Marsh Regional Blood Center in Kingsport. She tells us at their center alone they go through 3,000 platelet products per year. "They're only good on the shelf for five days, whereas whole blood or red cells are good on the shelf for 42 days. So the need is constant. We need consistent donations to be able to serve the need in the community," she sad.

That's why people like Al are so important to our community. He encourages everyone to make it a point in your life to save a life. "If you just take an hour of your time, it's a lifetime of hours to a patient. Take the time and donate a pint of blood," Al told us.

If you would like to donate blood platelets or blood, you can contact the Marsh Regional Blood Center in Bristol at (423) 652-0014 or in Kingsport at (423) 408-7500.