Platelets are often used to help patients with cancer. With only a shelf life of five days, donors are needed continuously.


Donation Types

Whole Blood Donations 

For a whole blood donation, about one pint of blood is collected and separated into its three components: plasma, platelets and red blood cells.

The value of a whole blood donation is that you help save three lives! Plasma is effective in treating burn or shock patients. Platelets can help patients with leukemia and other cancers. Red blood cells are often necessary to treat surgery patients, babies born prematurely and trauma victims. 

The entire donation process, from registration to post-donation refreshments, takes just under one hour, with the actual donation taking five to 10 minutes. You may donate whole blood every 56 days. 

Automated Donations

Automated donations allow you to selectively donate the blood components that are needed most, with the remaining blood returned to you. You can donate double red cells, platelets or plasma with an automated donation. Depending on your blood type, the collections staff can tell you what donation type is most needed at the time of your donation.

Double Red Cells

A double red cell donation allows you to give twice the amount of red cells given in a whole blood donation. Red blood cells are the most-used blood component for surgery, trauma and treatment of blood disorders.

You may donate double red cells once every 112 days. There are special requirements for donating double red cells. If you are interested in making this type of donation, please talk to the collections staff to determine whether you are eligible.


Platelets are a component of your blood that help control bleeding, and are often used to help patients with cancer. An automated platelet donation is equal to platelets derived from six whole blood donations. Since platelets only have a shelf life of five days, donors are needed continuously.

If you donate platelets, you may donate every seven days, up to 24 times per year. There is a three-day deferral period after taking aspirin to donate platelets.



Plasma, the liquid portion of blood, transports red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets (which control bleeding, fight infection and provide nutrients). Burn and trauma patients frequently are given plasma to replace fluid loss. Someone who receives many red cell transfusions may require plasma as well to maintain blood clotting. Plasma is also transfused to some patients with bleeding or clotting disorders.

After donating plasma, you may give plasma again after 28 days, whole blood after one month or platelets after 72 hours.

Source Plasma Donations

In addition to donating red blood cells, platelets or plasma that can be directly transfused to patients, some donors may give plasma that will be used to make lifesaving medicines for patients battling more than 80 different diseases. This new donation type is called source plasma.

Many patients do not require blood transfusions, but need lifesaving therapies – called therapeutic proteins – that can only be made with donated plasma. These patients include people with serious, and often rare, medical conditions, such as immune system deficiency, septic shock or hemophilia.

Just as there is no substitute for blood, no generic or chemical substitute exists for therapeutic proteins. The only way to create this type of medication is through plasma donations. The Blood Center has partnered with a nonprofit organization that creates therapeutic proteins from source plasma given by volunteer donors, to help patients in the U.S. and internationally.

Source plasma donation has slightly different donor eligibility requirements than other donation types. Learn more.

Autologous and Directed Donations

Autologous blood transfusion is a procedure in which you are transfused with blood that you have donated only for yourself.

Directed blood transfusion is a procedure in which the patient is transfused with blood specifically donated for the patient by a friend or family member, with a doctor's orders.

To become an autologous or directed blood donor, a written order must be faxed to The Blood Center's Autologous and Directed Program at (713) 791-6607. Your physician can obtain a Request for Autologous/Directed Donation form by calling (713) 791-6608 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., or download it here. It is the responsibility of the donor to make sure the written order is sent to The Blood Center by the physician.

Autologous and directed donations can be made at any Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center facility. You must call the location to schedule an appointment for your donation. Autologous blood donations are not accepted at mobile blood drives. An additional fee is charged for each pint drawn to cover extra processing and administrative costs. These fees are charged to the hospital and will be included in your hospital bill.

Autologous donors must have a hematocrit level of at least 38 percent. The deferral period for donors with low hematocrit is 30 days to give donors ample time to increase their hematocrit levels by regularly eating iron-rich foods and incorporating an iron supplement into their routines. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I be charged for direct donations if the donors are not compatible?

No, if your donors are not compatible there is no charge. But if we are not provided with the patient's blood type, then we send every donation to the hospital. After the hospital cross-match is done and it is concluded that the donation is incompatible, then there is only the direct fee of $26.

Why does my blood expire sooner if I am a blood relative?

If you are a blood relative, your donation will have to be irradiated to avoid graft versus host disease. In this instance, the 42-day expiration is reduced to 28 days.

Why do I have to pay for my own blood?

The charges assessed with an autologous donation are for testing and processing, and service fees.

Why do I need doctor's orders before donating autologous or direct units?

We must have a doctor's request in order to make sure we have all the proper information for the patient and to make sure the doctor has authorized the patient to give an autologous donation.

If I'm having surgery out of town, can I donate here and have it shipped? And at what cost?

Yes, you may donate with a physician's request at any Neighborhood Donor Center. But all units must be prepaid before any donations are made. This fee varies depending on how many units your physician wants. It includes testing and processing fees, autologous and/or directed fees, and shipping and handling.

Why can't I know the names of or other information about my direct donors?

All information is kept strictly confidential in accordance with HIPAA regulations.

If I don't use my autologous donation, why can't it be released for someone else?

Autologous donations are not drawn under the same criteria as a regular whole blood unit. Some physicians will allow autologous donors to donate who otherwise would not qualify to donate for the general public. Therefore, these units cannot be released for someone else.

Therapeutic Phlebotomy

If you have a condition such as polycythemia or porphyria cutanea tarda and are required to have blood drawn as a form of treatment, you may come to any Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center facility for the procedure.

With the exception of approved hemochromatosis and testosterone replacement therapy donors, therapeutic patients will only be drawn on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. The therapeutic request form must be completed by your doctor and faxed to (713) 790-1782 at least 72 hours prior to the first collection to allow time for review, Medical Director approval and data entry. Incomplete or illegible orders will not be accepted. Download the Therapeutic Phlebotomy Request.

A fee of $150 is required per therapeutic phlebotomy. This fee will not apply to those with a diagnosis of hereditary hemochromatosis or secondary polycythemia due to testosterone replacement therapy, since in some cases these units may be used for transfusion to patients. The fee also will not apply to patients with Medicare or Medicaid coverage.

Payment will be accepted onsite using a major credit card at the Neighborhood Donor Center after screening, prior to phlebotomy. A receipt and form that may be used for insurance reimbursement will be provided. The fee does not apply to patients with Medicare or Medicare coverage.


Effective June 26, 2018, The Blood Center will require a new request form for all new and existing patients who need treatment more frequently than every eight weeks.

What is new?

  • The new form will ask your provider to indicate how often you need your blood collected for treatment.
  • Your treatment will be limited to one visit per week.
  • If the new request form does not include instructions for how often you should be treated, your visits will be limited to once every eight weeks.


Hemochromatosis and Testosterone Replacement Therapy Donors

Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center has been granted variances from the Food and Drug Administration that allow The Blood Center to draw blood to be used for transfusion purposes from individuals diagnosed with hereditary hemochromatosis, and men taking hormone replacement therapy (testosterone). Previously, blood collected from these patients was drawn only as therapeutic phlebotomy and was destroyed.

Now, blood collected from individuals who have hereditary hemochromatosis or who are taking testosterone replacement therapy, who meet all suitability requirements for allogeneic blood donations, will be labeled as suitable for transfusion. The minimum hematocrit allowed for transfusion purposes is 38 percent for females, and 39 percent for males. Blood donations from donors who do not meet the current suitability requirements will be labeled as therapeutic phlebotomies and discarded. Hereditary hemochromatosis donors and donors taking testosterone will be allowed to donate blood more often than every eight weeks, and their blood will be used for transfusion if suitable. All donations from these individuals qualify to earn Commit for Life points.

There is no fee for phlebotomies performed on these individuals whether or not they meet requirements to be allogeneic donors. We will continue to require a therapeutic phlebotomy request form to be completed by your doctor and kept on file with The Blood Center. Download the Therapeutic Phlebotomy Request, ask your doctor to complete the form and fax to The Blood Center at (713) 790-1782.


Effective June 26, 2018, The Blood Center will require a new request form for all new and existing patients who need treatment more frequently than every eight weeks.

What is new?

  • The new form will ask your provider to indicate how often you need your blood collected for treatment.
  • Your treatment will be limited to one visit per week.
  • If the new request form does not include instructions for how often you should be treated, your visits will be limited to once every eight weeks.
Blood Center News
Have you given a Holiday Hug?

One of the best parts of the Holiday Hugs tradition is reading the notes our donors write for patients in the hospital over the holidays. It’s not an easy task as each patient has his or her own individual circumstance, so we’re restricted in which cards we tie to each bear. Still, many of our donors are well up to the task.

Every day, someone’s life is being saved.

By Tammie Riley 

I learned something the other day. Every day, someone’s life is being saved. I know that seems obvious, but let that sink in. What may be a normal Thursday for most could be something completely different for someone else. And that’s exactly what happened to donor Gary Gilson. Aug. 16 was one of the most important moments in Gary’s life. Not only did he save lives that day, but someone else saved the life of his loved one, as well.

Hospital tour highlights need

A 3-year-old girl lies in a hospital bed in the middle of the room with monitors attached to her bare chest. She’s awake, but she doesn’t lift her head as we walk into the room. Still, she follows us with her eyes. The only sound we hear from her is a small cough while a nurse comes in to check her stats.


The Blood Center teams up with Sickle Cell Association of Houston

The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center partnered with the Sickle Cell Association of Houston to host a blood drive Sept. 15 in recognition of Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month.

Blood transfusion is one treatment used to combat complications from sickle cell disease, a form of anemia most likely to affect people of African descent. Prince and her now 27-year-old daughter, Quannecia McCruse, founded the Sickle Cell Association of Houston years ago to educate and provide resources to the community.


Drive and save lives

Penny, a local teacher with some free time over the summer, has helped us kick off our new Volunteer Driver program. Are you interested in joining us in our mission to save lives? Call us at (713) 791-6262 or email

Overcoming fear: Donating blood for the first time

I’m a scaredy-cat. I readily admit it. I hate needles. That’s always been my excuse for why I don’t volunteer for anything with a needle. Flu shot? No way. Vaccines? I still remember the sheer terror I felt from them growing up. 

We are always #HoustonStrong

We never know when the next tragedy will strike, but we have to be ready when it does come. 

Meet Eden

CYPRESS – There is nothing more American than baseball and saving lives. Everyone who participates in The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center’s Home Run for Life competition will get a chance at both through June 30.


SuperMax is the hero Houston needs!

Max was born with a genetic disorder (neurofibromatosis type 1) that can cause tumors to grow on his nerve endings, and SuperMax has been his alter ego ever since. 

Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center mourns Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush helped save lives in our community, and we celebrate her lifetime of accomplishments. The former First Lady set the bar high in her commitment to helping others.


Dr. Charles Drew: A Blood Banking Pioneer

Here at The Blood Center, we pride ourselves on being an organization of diversity. We work together to save and sustain lives, and we each bring a unique perspective when it comes to fulfilling our mission.

Tying the knot and saving lives

Hurricane Harvey destroyed homes, cars and many other things, but one thing it couldn’t destroy is the compassion for others in newlywed couple Gilbert and Stefanie Cruz. Gilbert and Stefanie were set to get married just a few days after Harvey passed, but due the storm’s aftermath they had to alter all of their plans on a moment’s notice.


Blood on ambulances helps EMS agencies save more lives

Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center has partnered with two local agencies providing emergency medical services to help save more lives when time is of the essence, now administering whole blood to patients on the ground.

Donor coaches hit the road sporting new look, features

In the last two years, five of The Blood Center's donor coaches have been refurbished. Find out why this is such an important process.

Circle of Life Bike Tour celebrates life

The Lone Star Circle of Life bike tour visits Texas cities to raise awareness of the need for blood, marrow, organ and tissue donations to honor those impacted by these donation types. This year’s eight-day, 600-mile tour included stops in Houston and College Station.

Blood Center Resources

Our mission is to partner with the community to save and sustain lives by providing a safe supply of blood, blood components and related services.

Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center
1400 La Concha Lane
Houston, TX 77054

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