By Aleesia Benkey, American Red Cross intern
For more than 20 years, Chula Vista Fire Captain Dangkhoa Nguyen has generously donated platelets to help hospital patients. After one of Dangkhoa’s platelet donations in March, he was notified by the American Red Cross that his white blood cell counts were alarmingly low. Shortly after receiving this notification, Dangkhoa was diagnosed with leukemia. Now, Dangkhoa is on the receiving end of platelet donations.
After Dangkhoa’s diagnosis, he spent about a month in the hospital but was released just in time for a very important day – his May the Fourth Be With Us Blood Drive. In a show of solidarity, family and friends rallied together to host his blood drive in honor of Dangkhoa. May 4 was chosen because of Dangkhoa's longstanding love for Star Wars films, and many individuals attended the blood drive in costume and Star Wars paraphernalia.
“There’s just been an outstanding, genuine concern from the community to support him. Just to make sure that he knows that he is loved,” said Chula Vista Fire Chief Harry Muns. “He puts others first, day in and day out. He’s the person that’s always present; he’s there for you. He’s just such a giving and caring person, and that’s who he is; that’s what he represents.”
Red Cross Kearny Mesa Blood Donor Center Coordinator Angela Miller met Dangkhoa in 2006 when she first joined the Red Cross and has grown close with him, and his family. “I’m so excited about this drive,” said Angela. “Everyone has shown up with great energy in support of Dangkhoa.”
The blood drive collected 52 units of whole blood and 28 units of platelets and Dangkhoa's family and fire department are grateful for the support and success of the drive. “Just having everyone here at the blood drive, donating to help others, I can’t ask for more than that,” said Dangkhoa.
While Dangkhoa is on the road to recovery, he will continue to receive platelet transfusions as needed. Low platelet count is a major side effect of cancer treatment. Some types of chemotherapy can damage bone marrow, reducing platelet production. Other times, the cancer itself causes the problem. Leukemia and lymphoma can invade bone marrow and prevent the patient’s body from producing platelets.
Every 15 seconds, someone in the U.S. needs lifesaving platelets. Platelets are essential to treat cancer, chronic diseases and traumatic injuries. Eligible donors may donate platelets as often as every seven days, up to 24 times a year. For more information on platelet and blood donations, please visit RedCrossBlood.org.
What Happens to Donated Blood
Donors' blood journeys through many steps and tests that ensure our blood supply is as safe as possible and helps as many people as possible. This journey includes six steps – donation, processing, testing, storage, distribution and transfusion. During the testing phase, blood samples are tested in a FDA-licensed laboratory where trained technicians perform more than 12 different tests on samples from each and every unit of donated blood. Each unit of blood is screened for a number of infectious diseases, unexpected antibodies and a complete blood cell count (white cells, red cells and platelets). To learn more about the blood journey, click here.