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Does it hurt? Not as much as having cancer

POSTED July 31, 2012 9:23 p.m.

I have never met Joseph Greenwood.

By all indications, the 18-year-old Ripon High graduate is a solid citizen with a great attitude. The former wrestler and track athlete is also a fighter. Joseph is being treated for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

Joseph - and others like him - are the reason I set aside a three-hour block of my time every three weeks to donate platelets.

Platelets are critical in fighting leukemia, treating a host of cancers, allowing organ transplants, aiding heart surgeries, and helping premature babies survive. Essential chemo treatment for leukemia patients kills cancerous white cells but also kills off healthy ones at the same time. Without enough platelets they are vulnerable to infection and prone to spontaneous bleeding.

There is a perennial shortage of platelets. There are several reasons why. A cancer patient can require up to three units per day while undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment. But unlike straight blood donations that can be used up to 42 days after they are made, platelets have a useful shelf life of five days.

That means there are times when the platelet supply is exhausted or runs dangerously low.

The three hours represents my travel time to and from the Modesto Delta Blood Bank location, the prescreening, the mandatory 10-minute rest in the canteen afterwards and the two hours it takes to have the platelets drawn.

You essentially have an arm hooked to a sterile machine that takes out your blood, separates the platelets and then returns the blood to you.

Yes, it requires being poked with a needle. Does it hurt? It does me just a little but to be honest the pain is nothing.

I always think of Russell Perkins. He was a happy-go-lucky kid I knew growing up. He was smart, good-hearted, and always quick to help or make you laugh. He had his whole life ahead of him. Losing him to leukemia was painful. Suffering discomfort for a few seconds is nothing.

I look forward to donating platelets knowing it is essential to helping the countless Russells and Josephs out there that are fighting to stay alive.

It explains in part how I can tolerate lying down for two hours or so while wide awake. Anyone who knows me can tell you that sitting still that long drives me nuts. But I manage to do it to give platelets. Other donors use the time to watch DVD movies provided by Delta Blood Bank. I use the time to read or chat on my cell phone with my sister.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon - conversing with a loved one and reading a good book on water politics or history while helping complete strangers.

Donors need to be male, weigh at least 150 pounds and preferably have type AB blood.

For more information go to deltabloodbank.org or call 1-888-94BLOOD. 

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.

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