Saving lives one pint at a time

Thursday, November 30, 2006
Jackie Weiss of Perryville, Mo., left, laughed as one of the nurses told a joke while she was donating platelets at the American Red Cross Tuesday in Cape Girardeau. (Photos by Diane L. Wilson)

Rosalie Burnett knows there's a need.

Almost seven years ago, her nephew was in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Immediately after the accident, he was rushed to the hospital.

"He needed blood, and we were told there was a shortage," said Burnett, of Jackson. "I vowed I would never let that happen again."

Since her nephew's accident, Burnett has donated whole blood and platelets at the American Red Cross in Cape Girardeau as often as she can -- about 24 times a year.

Rosalie Burnett of Jackson looked up at the monitor for the readout of her donation while she was donating platelets Tuesday at the American Red Cross in Cape Girardeau.

According to the Red Cross, someone in America needs blood every two seconds.

While 60 percent of the population is eligible to donate, only 5 percent of adults donate blood, said Dom Mastropierro, donor recruitment account manager at the American Red Cross.

"Most people don't realize there is always a need for blood," Mastropierro said. "For whatever reason, there are a lot of people who just do not donate."

While the Red Cross needs donors throughout the year, the center struggles to meet its goal during the holiday season.

"It's more difficult to get donors to come in," Mastropierro said. "People are busy and traveling more. This time of year is particularly difficult for us."

On Tuesday morning, Burnett and Jackie Weiss of Perryville sat in recliners and watched "The Price is Right" on television in the American Red Cross blood donation center. The two women are regular donors at the center, located at 20 S. Mount Auburn Road in Cape Girardeau.

"I come about once a month," said Weiss as she donated platelets. The Red Cross needs people who will donate both whole blood and platelets, which are produced in the bone marrow of healthy people and are essential to the blood clotting function.

Unlike red blood cells, whose shelf life is 42 days, platelets have a shelf life of only five days. The supply must be constantly replenished, said Linda Watson, a phlebotomist at the Red Cross.

Patients undergoing chemotherapy, a bone-marrow transplant or open-heart surgery depend on platelets to survive their treatments.

Both Burnett and Weiss said they generally donate platelets at the Red Cross because there's more of a need for platelets.

Rosalie Burnett of Jackson squeezed a bean bag while donating platelets Tuesday at the American Red Cross in Cape Girardeau.

"You help more people by donating platelets," Burnett said. The platelets she donated Tuesday could help up to three people.

Mastropierro knows people may be timid of needles involved in with donating blood, but he said "once you get past the first time -- it's not so bad."

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