Blood donations helping cancer patients

October 17, 2012 1:27:13 PM PDT
Our friend and colleague Robin Roberts is home now, but when she recently underwent a bone marrow transplant, she was surprised to learn how many blood transfusions some cancer patients need.

That means relying on blood donations from friends, family and strangers.

"Her idea was how about putting out something to make people aware of what the need really is," said Dr. Richard Besser.

The need for blood donors is huge, especially in the New York area.

"We import a lot of our blood from the midwest, the south the other parts of the country where they donate more frequently," said Joe Licata with Memorial Sloan Kettering. He adds, "Cancer patients use more blood products than patients with any other disease."

The problem is not the cancer itself it's the treatment. Strong doses of chemotherapy and bone marrow suppression can temporarily damage the cells that make blood and platelets.

Platelets are the crucial cells that help blood clot, but they last less than a week requiring a constant supply of donors.

Alfred Petit-Clair has been donating platelets twice a month since 1983, when his late wife was battling leukemia.

"There are people whose lives depend on it," he said.

So why don't more people donate? Joe Licata, who runs the blood donor program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center says their surveys found a surprising excuse.

"Most people will say the reason they have never donated is because they haven't been asked," he said.

But now, Robin is asking- she hopes more people will be inspired to give the gift of life.

"When you go to give blood, tell them robin sent you," adds Dr. Besser.

Robin says it's likely she too will need more transfusions.

But in an email, she's says she feels fine overall.

She's still getting her strength and appetite back, but her friend's cajun cooking is helping.

She's taking daily walks and feels blessed to be doing this well.



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