HANOVER TWP. — Jacqualyn Kocher sat completely still, both arms extended as machines slowly drew blood from one, separated the platelets and returned the plasma and red blood cells to the other.
Her brother-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia three weeks ago, and that’s why she had gone to donate on Easter Sunday, she said. A tear rolled down her cheek.
Her donation at the American Red Cross Donor Center in Hanover Township would give her brother-in-law and folks with the same illness as his a boost in necessary blood platelets needed to recover after chemotherapy or bone-marrow transplants.
Blood platelets have a five-day shelf life, and reserves in this region are down, a Red Cross spokesman, Colin Riccobon said. Leukemia patients need as many as 120 blood platelet doses after a bone-marrow transplant as the body works to engraft the new tissue, Riccobon said.
Kocher, 21, of Wilkes-Barre Township, said Sunday’s visit to the Red Cross was her first time donating platelets.
“Doing this, I’m happy to do something to be able to help him,” Kocher said.
With reserves down, the Red Cross accepted donations Easter morning to help fill in the gaps.
Blood donors can give four types of blood products: whole blood, red blood cells, plasma or platelets.
Platelets are separated from the rest of the blood using a process called apheresis in which the rest of the blood is returned to the body. People usually can donate about once every three weeks or 24 times annually.
Donors must be at least 17 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds. It’s good to eat foods high in iron, drink lots of water and avoid fatty foods 24 hours before donating.
Platelets allow blood to clot and are significantly reduced during chemotherapy and after bone-marrow transplants while the new marrow is getting assimilated and not producing new platelets.
In additon, heart by-pass surgery patients need platelets to prevent bleeding after the operation.
It usually takes around 2 1/2 hours to complete a donation, a little longer than a whole-blood donation, but a single donation can produce up to three doses.
“It’s always important to have a stable supply of platelets because you never know when it may be a family member, friend, co-worker or even you that needs them,” Riccobon said.
Michael Davenport, 59, of Wilkes-Barre, lounged in another apherisis station squeezing a rubber ball to keep his veins open.
It was a friend who inspired him to give platelets regularly, and though he doesn’t have any friends or relatives who immediately need the blood components, he’s just looking to do his part, he said.
“It’s not a lot of work. I get to sit down and watch a couple hours of the History Channel,” Davenport said. “It’s a minimal effort on my part. It’s not that much.”
It’s people such as Davenport who will help keep the reserves stocked for times when the blood is needed most, Riccobon said.