Huffman column: Guess being special is just in my blood
See? My mother was right, I am special. And the American Red Cross agrees.
For several years I’ve donated blood platelets to the Red Cross through its apheresis program. The word is from the Greek, meaning “to take away.” Donors give only select blood components ó platelets, plasma, red cells or infection-fighting white cells.
They’re typically needed by individuals who have undergone bone-marrow transplants.
The apheresis-donation program is a step more involved than a simple blood donation. The process of giving platelets takes about two hours. Both arms are strapped down while blood is drawn from one. Once the platelets are collected (it’s cool to watch), the blood is returned through a needle in the other arm.
It’s not a bad or particularly uncomfortable process. And as my father (who, by the way, gave more blood than anyone in the history of Alamance County and who was also a platelet donor) used to point out, we’d all be in trouble if someone didn’t donate.
There are several platelet-donation centers in the area. I drive to Winston-Salem to give. The nurses are great. Most donors watch a movie while they give. Free cookies and Cokes when you’re done.
OK, but back to the part about me being special.
While I’ve given platelets for years, I’ve never before been an exact match for an individual recipient. That changed a couple of months ago.
Typing of donations is done to make sure the match between donors and recipients is as close as possible. On occasion, the Red Cross will discover that a particular donor is an exact match with an individual needing his or her platelets.
I got a call from the Red Cross in October telling me I was a match and that my platelets were needed ASAP. I went to Winston-Salem the next day to give. One of the nurses told me that I was a match with a patient in a hospital in Charleston, S.C., who has undergone a bone-marrow transplant.
A representative of the Red Cross has since called me two other times to tell me that my platelets are badly needed by that same patient. Fortunately, on both occasions I’ve been able to donate the following day (being unemployed has its advantages). I’m told that of those on the Red Cross’ apheresis registry, I’m one of only two in the Southeast who matches this individual.
This gives me a feeling of being a pretty special guy, though, admittedly, I’m not sure I have any right to feel this way. After all, I had about as much to do with deciding how my blood was put together as you did with yours.
But it still gives me a good feeling, sort of like watching someone unwrap a present I’ve bought for them. It also gives me the opportunity to brag on myself. Whenever I give platelets, on that day’s Facebook posting, I write: “Steve Huffman helped save a life today. What did you do?”
Then I proceed to the living room where I do my superior dance.
Apheresis donations are by appointment only. If you’re interested, give the Red Cross a call at 1-800-GIVE LIFE.
I’ll bet your mother would be proud of you. It’d also prove that what she said all along is true ó you’re a pretty special person.
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In addition to saving lives, Steve Huffman is a free-lance writer who lives in Spencer.