Lifesaving donation

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

A Cape Girardeau family recently experienced a health crisis that few of us can fathom. Hours after learning that their son, Josh Downing, had leukemia, his parents learned that there weren't enough blood platelets available for his treatment.

Platelets are the most rare, and thus most valuable, component of the blood. They are used to control bleeding and in treating cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and in patients with blood disorders.

The American Red Cross accepts platelet donations at its Cape Girardeau Donation Center, but appointments are necessary. Donating platelets takes between 90 minutes and two hours. A special machine is used to remove the platelets from a donor and put the red cells back into the body. The time constraint often dissuades donors.

But the Downings didn't want to wait. They asked friends, neighbors and acquaintances for help. Maybe it was the desperation of their story or the fact that they asked during the Christmas season, but donors came through in time for Josh.

Having a lower than usual blood supply is almost always the norm during the holidays when drives cease and donations slow down, Red Cross officials say.

The Downings, Red Cross employees and others hope the severity of this health crisis makes people realize that blood and platelet donations are crucial.

The American Red Cross, cancer patients and their families would be most grateful for a donation that just might save a life.

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