Friday, April 06, 2007

Giving Comfort, Giving Life

I doubt if there are very many reading this that don't know and care deeply for someone that is afflicted with some type of cancer. It would be more likely that we all know and love someone with some type of cancer and in some stage of treatment.

It was many years ago that another air traffic controller's daughter had leukemia. That was when I first found out that chemo-therapy destroys the body's blood platelets. Some times they would have to take her to the hospital because of nose bleeds that wouldn't stop. They would often give her donated platelets to help control the bleeding. That's what got me started on platelet donations. Apheresis is a process that takes whole blood and separates the platelets. The platelets are collected and the rest of the blood is returned to the donor.

Over the past several years, the machines used for this process have advanced a great deal. Today, you can give platelets, plasma, and a unit of whole blood in a matter of a couple of hours. The shelf life of donated platelets is only a few days. Therefore it is necessary to have a regular supply of donors. Unlike whole blood, you can make a platelet donation every few days (although the American Red Cross restricts you to a maximum of 24 donations in a year). Qualifications for donors are pretty much the same as for whole blood. There are some additional restrictions. You should check with your local Red Cross or community blood center.

It's been a little while since I've made a donation. It's not that I haven't thought about it, it's just a little bit inconvenient most of the time. By the time I drive into Springfield, answer the standard questions make the donation and have the obligatory liquids and snack--it's half of a day! On the other hand, it is nothing like the inconvenience of the treatment that creates the need for donors. When you are done, you're not going to feel bad or get sick. You're not going to lose your hair. You're not going to worry about your health, your family, your medical bills or any of the other many worries of a cancer patient.

Well I have convinced myself of the need to make a donation. Any other takers?


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