Heart Day - Shelby Leonhard

Today's Valentine's Day. Candy Day. Celebration of St. Valentine...execution of the saint or the massacre...take your pick.

This year was going to be different than just eating chocolate and making bad jokes. I planned today to donate platelets for Shelby Leonhard (please Google her for more current information).

The call had been put out in cyberspace on the 14-year old's condition: non-hodgkin's lymphoma and in need of whole blood and platelet donations. My company works closely with Shelby's father and a blood drive is being planned. I learned my blood type would be useful for platelet donation. I've never donated platelets. I called the Blood Center and made an appointment to go today after work to do it.

Oddly enough there wasn't much information on the internet about the actual process. I received a tutorial when I arrived at the center this evening:

Apheresis (pronounced a-for-ee-sis) is a different procedure from the regular whole blood donation I was used to doing. If you've donated blood at a drive or at one of the blood mobiles, you know the routine: fill out questions about your personal love life, the times and places you've traveled abroad, and your overall health. Then you have the iron content in your blood tested by a finger lancet test. If you pass, you then get to spend some quality time bleeding into a bag, squeezing a stress ball, and afterwards drink fruit juice and eat cool junk food.

Apheresis, or platelet donation, is a newer medical procedure. With a whole blood donation, gravity does the work through an IV tube into an awaiting bag. This procedure uses a computerized centrifuge where the blood is divided into various parts as it's being drawn: red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, and platelets. For those playing the "I need to know everything" game -red carries oxygen; white fights infection; plasma brings blood take-out; and platelets clot the works.

The "screening" process is where I got disqualified. First they check a blood donor's veins to see how strong they are to withstand the process. My veins are collapsible and wouldn't be good for it. Had I passed, then I would have had a test on the amount of platelets in a blood sample. Next step would have been being connected to the machine where blood would have been drawn, centrifuged, and saline re-entered to replace the blood taken.

Those who benefit from platelet donations are patients with blood disorders or cancer, newborns, burn victims, and those who have undergone transplant or cardiovascular surgery.

My "Plan B" is to donate blood during my company's blood drive. In a show of solidarity, there have been a few blood drives this past weekend for Shelby: Children's Hospital, Ochsner Hospital, and the Plant Gallery. Even though my blood type is not compatible to give to Shelby directly, any amount of blood donated will go towards her total. In other words, for every unit she uses and gets replaced through donation is one less unit on her medical expenses. And, if it is A negative or a compatible match, it will go directly for her use.

Shelby's current condition is unknown except that she is fighting and needs help from the public to give her direct assistance and replenish the stores. Twitter and the local media have been good getting the word out. Shelby is a loving daughter, a big sister, and a student at Sacred Heart. Her father is a good man and wants her to smile again. If you can help, please do.

And for those who don't live around here, I'm sure there's a person like Shelby in your world who needs help and would benefit from your support. I can't think of a better way to show how much your heart holds than to give and not count the cost.

Happy Valentine's Day and travel light.