2018 Rose Parade: ‘I Just Want to Help’: A Platelet Donor Gives Back to Honor His Mom
October 20, 2017 | by Denise Heady
Here, we meet float rider Daniel Bliley, a son trying to honor his mom's legacy.
Just about every other Saturday, 33-year-old Daniel Bliley makes the 40-mile trek from Woodland Hills, California, to Duarte to donate platelets to cancer patients at City of Hope.
Giving up precious time during the weekend may seem like a big commitment, but for Bliley, it’s not such a big deal.
“Honestly, this is easy,” said Bliley. “I wish there was more I could do.”
Bliley began donating platelets at City of Hope nearly 15 years ago — the day he turned 18 years old.
“I was in high school and it was my birthday so I got one of my friends to take me and that was the first time I donated. I’ve come back ever since.”
It may sound like an odd place for an 18th birthday celebration, but for Bliley, it was something that he needed to do.
Ever since his mother passed away from Hodgkin lymphoma when he was 8 years old, he knew he wanted to help other patients like his mom. He just wasn’t sure how. When he turned 18, he finally found a way – by donating platelets to cancer patients who desperately needed transfusions to live.
My mom had a lot of love to give everybody else and I felt like her life was just cut so short,” said Bliley. “I felt that I had a responsibility to carry on her legacy because I wouldn't be here without her. I just want to help other people that are in her same situation."
And he is doing just that.
People like Bliley are critical to cancer patients. Thousands of cancer patients will need blood and platelets — sometimes daily — during treatment.
Cancer patients need transfusions for many reasons. Treatments can lead to blood loss and create the need for red blood cell or platelet transfusions. Those with leukemia or lymphoma, like Bliley’s mom, may have low red or white blood cell counts, since cancer crowds out the normal blood-making cells in their bodies.
Many therapies for blood cancers also affect the bone marrow, which leads to low blood counts. Patients who receive bone marrow or stem cell transplants endure large doses of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Their blood-making cells are destroyed as part of the treatment, and they often need transfusions following their transplant.
Currently, City of Hope brings in about 22,300 units of blood and platelets yearly — which is not nearly enough to meet the hospital’s needs.
“Due to the nature of our patients and treatments here at City of Hope, we require more transfusion support than your typical hospital,” said Kasie Uyeno, manager of blood donor recruitment at City of Hope's Michael Amini Transfusion Medicine Center. “Demand for blood and platelets rarely drops, so having people like Daniel who are dedicated to donating is truly amazing and inspiring. He is helping so many patients and families affected by cancer.”
With nearly 200 platelet donations under his belt, Bliley is on track to become one of the top blood donors at City of Hope, which is not an easy feat.
His goal is to get to at least 500 donations, but he would like to do more.
And he isn’t just stopping at donating platelets. In 2010, Bliley became a stem cell donor to a 62-year-old woman in New Jersey who, like his mother, desperately needed a donor to help fight her cancer.
"They told me that even with my donation, she had only a 40 percent chance of it helping her,” said Bliley. “After the transplant, I heard she was out of the hospital within a month, and she is still alive today. I still talk to her occasionally. We send notes back and forth through the mail and we got to meet so that was really, really cool.”
Even though Bliley has already done so much to help cancer patients and honor his mom’s legacy — this October marks the 25th anniversary of her death — he still isn’t close to being finished.
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