Family members and friends of City of Hope patients can do more than pay them a visit in the hospital or send a get-well card. Now, they can give a gift truly from the heart: their own blood.
Through the Directed Donor Program — run through the Michael Amini Transfusion Medicine Center — neighbors, friends, co-workers, coaches, godparents or anyone else with a loved one in treatment can provide the blood products needed to support the patient’s journey back to health.
“Through our program, we prequalify family members to provide blood for their loved one so it can be ready when the patient needs a transfusion,” said Kasie Uyeno, directed donor coordinator at the Blood Donor Center. “Families have enough to worry about; we try to take a lot of the work off the family members.”
Some cancers and their treatments can take a toll on patients’ blood cells, Uyeno explained. Red blood cells from whole blood donations help treat anemia, which can leave patients weak and tired.
Donated platelets — special blood cells related to clotting — can prevent and treat bleeding.
Patients at City of Hope rely on more than 30,000 units of blood and platelets each year during treatment, most of which comes from public donations. But family members and friends have increasingly answered the call, giving whole blood and platelets for patients of their choosing.
“At one point, 25 to 30 percent of our donations were from directed donors,” Uyeno said. “Now, it’s up to about 44 percent.”
If a friend’s or family member’s blood type is compatible with the patient, their donated whole blood can be given directly to the patient. If it’s a different blood type, supporters can still donate their platelets directly to the patient — or donate whole blood to help others.
“Even if you’re a different blood type, you can still donate whole blood,” Uyeno said. “Other City of Hope patients with your blood type still are seriously in need of help. Your blood donation will replace the blood that your loved one used.”
Directed whole blood donations are reserved for the designated patient for 35 days; directed platelet donations for four days (since platelets have a shelf life of only five days). If the patient does not need the units during that time, the blood or platelets may be released for use by another City of Hope patient in need.
Volunteers usually may donate whole blood once every eight weeks, but they can do it more often if it’s a directed donation. Each donation includes a medical screening and mini-physical exam. The process generally takes less than an hour.
Donating platelets involves separating out the different blood cells and collecting only the platelets cells. The rest is returned to the donor. The entire process, including paperwork and interview, takes about two and a half hours. And it can be done much more frequently than whole blood donation.
For more information about directed donations, please call 800-535-7119, ext. 69038. To make an appointment, please call 626-471-7171 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.