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Giving life through platelet donation

Air Force Staff Sgt. Rebekah Stover prepares the arm of high-volume donor Charles Dowd for an apheresis session where platelets are removed from his blood at the Armed Services Blood Bank Center at the Madigan Army Medical Center Annex on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington (U.S. Army photo by Ryan Graham) Air Force Staff Sgt. Rebekah Stover prepares the arm of high-volume donor Charles Dowd for an apheresis session where platelets are removed from his blood at the Armed Services Blood Bank Center at the Madigan Army Medical Center Annex on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington (U.S. Army photo by Ryan Graham)

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MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Wash. — Charles Dowd is the Armed Services Blood Bank Center-Pacific Northwest's second highest donor. He is such a fixture at the center that they know how to make him comfortable and entertained for the hour or so that it takes to donate platelets.

It would be hard to find a bigger cheerleader for all types of blood donation than Dowd.

Every couple of weeks, as he has done for years and years, Dowd settled into the reclining lounge chair in the phlebotomy room for the donation.

When Dowd entered the Air Force in 1966, the Vietnam War was ramping up and he was concerned about his ability to have blood drawn should he need a transfusion in a deployed situation. His mother had informed him that she had trouble with blood draws, resulting in frustration and broken needles in the process. So, he decided to test himself by donating.

The process went well for him and he did the typical whole blood donation for a while. Then he saw someone settle into a lounge chair donating platelets and asked what that was all about. After he was told about the benefits of platelet donation, he added that to his regular donation routine, alternating between whole blood and platelet donation, according to the waiting period each requires between donations.

Since giving whole blood means completely removing a unit of blood, it requires a 56-day wait between donations. The apheresis process, however, draws into a machine that filters the platelets out and returns the rest of the blood back to the donor. This requires a much shorter wait time in between donations. While a whole blood donor can only give blood about six times a year, they can give platelets 24 times in that same period.

"It gives me a warm and fuzzy afterwards, that's for sure," said Dowd.

That opportunity to have more impact piqued Dowd's interest, and when he found how platelets help those struggling with illnesses like cancer because they help blood clot, he was transformed into a committed platelet donor.

"It's not painful; you're just relaxing. You get food and drink for free. They have a large selection of movies, or [you can] watch TV. They have a great, friendly staff. You're doing a great service for military, not only active duty, but dependents. Platelets go to babies, too," he said.

Dowd knows that the Armed Services Blood Program has been around for longer than he's been donating. It is the sole provider of blood for the military and one of only four national blood collection organizations ensuring the nation has a safe and effective blood supply.

"Here you are helping the 1 percent who are defending the nation. What's a couple of hours out of your day for what they're doing, including all the time they spend away from their families?" asked Dowd.

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity.  Read original post. 

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