Wilmington donors Karen Shutts and Kristina Cornett can consider themselves pioneers. They are the first female donors to get a new opportunity to help save lives.
Thanks to newly available testing Community Blood Center is welcoming new female platelet and plasma donors for the first time in seven years. Karen and Kristina were the first to become platelet donors after the new testing.
CBC is encouraging women whole blood donors with blood types A positive, B positive, and type AB to consider becoming apheresis donors. Whole blood donors interested in learning if they are eligible to donate platelets and plasma should call CBC’s Ashley Christian at (937) 461-3476.
CBC is conducting platelet counts on all male and females (excluding O positive and O negative blood types) currently being recruited as whole blood donors.
Previously, CBC has recruited only male donors for apheresis because of risks associated with women donors who have been pregnant. Only females who had donated platelets and had a proven successful transfusion history were eligible to donate platelets.
The concern is that pregnancy may cause the body to produce antibodies against human leukocyte antigens (HLA). The potentially fatal syndrome Transfusion-Related Acute Lung Injury (TRALI) is the most harmful condition associated with HLA antibodies.
CBC is now able to perform HLA testing on females who have been pregnant (or have been pregnant since their HLA was last tested), and all pedigreed female apheresis donors. Women who test negative for HLA antibodies can become eligible to donate platelets and plasma.
CBC welcomed its first female apheresis donors in seven years at the Oct. 12 Wilmington Eagles blood drive. Wilmington’s Karen Shutts and Kristina Cornett both made their first platelet donations.
Prior to that first apheresis donation Karen had made seven whole blood donations. She said she remembered seeing apheresis donations taking place at previous Wilmington Eagles blood drives and asking “What are they doing over there?”
At the time she was told it was not an option for her. “They said no, women really can’t give platelets,” she said.
Platelets are essential for blood clotting. They are routinely needed for cancer therapy, open-heart surgery, blood disorders and organ transplant. They must be transfused within five days, requiring the supply to be constantly replenished.
Karen was pleased to reach her eighth lifetime donation by giving platelets. “I like helping people and giving blood,” she said. “I know platelets help cancer patients. I remember wondering ‘What are they doing over there?’ But I got in the ‘boys club.’”
Kristina Cornett became a member of the “boys club” by donating platelets at the Wilmington Eagles Lodge blood drive. It was her ninth lifetime blood donation, but her first by apheresis.
“I feel fine,” she said. “They said they hadn’t had new females donating platelets in seven years. I knew there was the added time factor. I’m going to see if I can do it regularly. I didn’t know it was an option until they called me.”
There are still boys being welcomed into the “boys club.” Robert Bolin made his first apheresis donation at the Wilmington Eagles blood drive alongside Karen and Kristina. His previous 14 donations were all whole blood donations.
“It’s a good place with a lot of young people and friendly people,” he said. “You have to have blood. When someone asks me why I give blood I say, ‘Where do you think the blood comes from? It doesn’t come out of the air!’”
The Wilmington Eagles Lodge regularly hosts CBC blood drives that include apheresis every other month, on the second Wednesday of the month, from 12 noon to 6:30 p.m. The next Wilmington Eagles Lodge blood drive is Wednesday, Dec. 14.