A Lasting Gift

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A Lasting Gift

Banking blood for a loved one fighting cancer is simple

Surgery, drugs, radiation and immune therapies are a big part of the regimen against cancer and other serious diseases treated at City of Hope. But so is another component that gets less attention: blood.

Cancer and the treatments to fight it often wreak havoc with patients’ blood-making ability. Chemotherapy and radiation can reduce the level of blood cells and platelets, small blood components essential to clotting. All of this puts patients at a greater risk for infection, as well as for anemia and the fatigue it brings. That’s where blood transfusions come in.

Relying on Friends and Family

Health professionals collect, analyze and process thousands of pints of donated blood at City of Hope’s Michael Amini Transfusion Medicine Center. Each year, patients at City of Hope use about 37,000 units of blood and platelets.

“The more we push the envelope in the treatments we are able to offer, the more we rely on transfusion support,” says Shirong (Sean) Wang, M.D., M.P.H., chief of transfusion medicine and director of the Amini Center.

Banking your own blood ahead of surgery or treatment is tough when you have cancer, since many patients don’t produce enough red blood cells or platelets. Fortunately, City of Hope’s directed donor program enables friends and family members to make a donation for a specific patient so it can be ready when a transfusion is needed.

If your blood type is compatible, you can give whole blood directly to your loved one. If you have a different blood type, you can donate platelets (they’re not type-specific). Or you can donate whole blood or platelets to help other City of Hope patients, and your donation will replace blood your loved one uses.

Survivors Giving Back

Cancer survivors can safely donate blood products at City of Hope — under certain circumstances. If the cancer was surgically removed or treated with localized radiation, you can donate after five years in remission. Survivors of basal and squamous cell skin cancers can give sooner if they’ve had no recurrence or metastasis. However, you are ineligible to donate if you’ve had chemotherapy or a blood-based, recurrent or metastatic cancer.

Each donated unit undergoes a meticulous process to ensure safety. More than a dozen tests check for a variety of infectious diseases. Technicians in the blood bank then separate each donation into several components: red blood cells useful in treating anemia, plasma for blood clotting disorders, white blood cells for fighting infections, and platelets, which prevent or stop bleeding.

“There’s no substitute for blood,” notes Kasie Uyeno, directed donor coordinator at City of Hope. “Each time you donate, you could be saving a life.”

Donating Blood

City of Hope screens all potential donors of blood products.

  • Each donation begins with an interview and a mini-physical.
  • To donate at City of Hope, you must be at least age 17 and weigh more than 110 pounds, or (with parental consent) be age 16 and weigh at least 120 pounds.
  • You must be healthy on the day you give blood.
    Do not donate if you’ve had cold or flu symptoms three days prior or have taken antibiotics or blood thinners within 48 hours (the latter for platelets only).
  • You may not donate if you are at risk for HIV exposure or have received a blood transfusion in the last year.

Other medical, lifestyle and travel restrictions also affect eligibility.

— Candace Pearson

Save a Life!

Watch “Donating Blood at City of Hope” at youtube.com/user/cityofhopeonline to learn more about becoming a blood donor. To set a time to donate blood call 626-471-7171 or visit cityofhope.org.

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