For children fighting cancer, platelets and red blood cells become their life-sustaining need. Unlike medicines that are manufactured for use, blood products, especially platelets, must be processed through donations. More than 44000 are needed each day according to the American Red Cross.
During Summer's treatment with chemotherapy, over the course of several years, she received hundreds of blood transfusions. In essence, chemotherapy essentially destroys the bone marrow that manufactures red blood cells and platelets. The red blood cells are necessary to transport oxygen while the platelets help control blood clotting and ultimately prevent the child from uncontrollable bleeding and possible death.
Most people are familiar with donating blood and have participated in blood drives. This process requires approximately 30 minutes of one's time and whole blood is extracted. From whole blood packed red blood cells can be generated for transfusions these packed cells can then have a shelf life up to 42 days.
However, fewer people realize that platelet donation requires a different process, of collection where the blood is extracted from the donor, goes through a machine that separates out the platelets, and returns the blood back to the donor while preserving the precious platelets. The process takes about 70-90 minutes of one's time and requires donating at a blood collection center with an appointment time.
The shelf life for platelets is only 5 days. It soon becomes evident that there is a dire need for platelet donors.
Summer's Gold Award project for Girl Scouts was creating a platelet donor pool in the Denver area through Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. In continuing her legacy and perhaps saving a child's life, this foundation will continue to support and encourage blood and platelet donation.
Become a hero, join with others to make a difference, one child at a time.