July 19, 2012 | by Hiu Chung So
Here’s a guy who’s not shy of commitment. Bob Williams, Ph.D., makes the drive to City of Hope from Covina, Calif., every few weeks to sit in a chair and have blood pulled out of his arm. Oh, and then it goes back into his arm — most of it, anyway.
Williams, 79, regularly donates platelets, which help blood clot. A machine removes them from his blood, returning the rest of his blood to his body. Platelets are important to patients with cancer and other diseases, because patients often need blood transfusions to make it through intensive therapy. Williams can relate because his own daughter had cancer, and he started donating during her treatment in the 1990s. That was 400 donations ago.
He shows no sign of stopping. “I am a Virgo; we like routines,” he says jokingly.
People like Williams are critical to cancer patients. At City of Hope, patients go through about 5,000 units of blood each month. Blood products have a limited shelf life, too. While whole blood may be stored for up to 56 days, platelets last only five days.
Demand for blood rarely drops, but supply definitely does, especially during summer vacations. This summer seems especially challenging. Just last month, the Red Cross reported that donations are down 10 percent nationwide compared to 2011. City of Hope is no exception.
You might not be able to donate as regularly as Williams, or maybe you’re a commitment-phobe; but consider making a donation through City of Hope’s Blood Donor Center this summer. Patients would appreciate it.