Each time an American Red Cross platelet donor rolls up a sleeve, there is a grateful patient waiting to receive a transfusion. The special gift of platelets can give a recipient a second chance at life.
MEET MATT DEYO Most teenagers look forward to their senior year of high school and preparing for the future. But for Matt Deyo, senior year didn’t go exactly as he hoped and he had to put his college plans on hold.
“I went from being in algebra class to being told by my doctor that I would need a tutor to help me finish high school because I would be starting months of chemotherapy,” Deyo said.
Deyo was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor that can develop during the period of rapid growth in adolescence. Because this type of cancer spreads quickly, he immediately began an aggressive chemotherapy regimen. Deyo also had surgery to remove a tumor from his leg and suffered complications from uncontrollable nosebleeds, requiring multiple transfusions of type-specific platelets to stop the bleeding.
“The realization that I was seriously ill and needed someone else’s blood really frightened me,” Deyo said. “However, I was very fortunate because someone had donated platelets. If I would have had to wait for them, even 24 hours, I would not be here today.”
During a 14-month period, Deyo spent 280 days in the hospital for chemotherapy and received more than 90 units of platelets and red blood cells.
“Although I responded well to chemotherapy and was actually able to graduate on time, it was frustrating to accept that I wasn’t going to be heading off to college with my friends,” he said. “Being an 18-year-old cancer patient was very difficult because my life suddenly took an expected detour. But going through that life-changing experience led me down an amazing path and helped me decide to pursue a medical career.”
Today, Deyo is cancer-free and encourages others to donate lifesaving blood and platelets for patients in need. He knows firsthand the importance of having them available. Deyo has earned a master’s degree in biological science with a minor in public health and plans to attend medical school.
PLATELET DONORS NEEDED Platelets are the clotting factor in blood; they help prevent excess bleeding. Cancer patients undergoing surgeries and premature infants often need this specific blood product. Platelets have a short shelf life from donation to transfusion – only five days. As summer gets underway, it’s important that eligible platelet donors give frequently to help ensure this potentially lifesaving blood product is available for patients whenever and wherever needed.
HOW TO GIVE For more information about donating blood, or to make an appointment to donate blood or platelets, please visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Individuals who are at least 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.