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Platelet donation helps couple grow closer and help others
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Platelet donation helps couple grow closer and help others

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Like clockwork every other week, James and Bonnie West keep a 3 o’clock appointment to donate platelets at the local LifeSouth Community Blood Center.

James and Bonnie West have been donating their platelets together every two weeks for over three years. Bonnie West said she and her husband had regularly donated blood together for four years before switching to platelets. She said they found out they could help people more often by donating their platelets every two weeks compared to donating their blood every 56 days.

“We try to do everything together, and it’s just double the lives saved,” Bonnie West said.

James West, who works as a corrections deputy at the Houston County Jail, spends two hours on his second day off every other Tuesday at the LifeSouth donor center with his wife.

“I can’t afford to give people money, but I can sure afford to give them my platelets,” James West said. “I can’t give people money because I don’t have it to give, but my body keeps making platelets so I can give them.”

Both James and Bonnie West said just like anything else in life if it’s important you have to make it a priority, which they have made donating platelets.

“Other than emergencies, we protect that day,” Bonnie West said. “If it’s important, you make it part of your routine just like anything else”

Candice Johnson, a supervisor at the LifeSouth Community Blood Center, said it typically takes one to two hours for someone to donate their platelets. She said the platelet donors usually donate by appointment because of the time it takes to donate, but they do take walk-ins.

Johnson said the LifeSouth donor center, located at 3833 Ross Clark Circle, has three machines they use to withdraw the platelets from people.

“It takes the whole blood out and then it separates the components,” Johnson said. “It returns the red blood cells, some of the plasma and it replenishes your lost fluids with saline. So it keeps you hydrated.”

Johnson said when people donate a pint of whole blood it has three main components, which includes red blood cells, platelets and plasma.

Also, according to the LifeSouth website at lifesouth.org, a major benefit to donating platelets is they only have a shelf-life of five days so they get used quickly compared to blood, which has a shelf-life of 42 days.

The website also said platelets are used to help the clotting process in the body, and help prevent massive blood loss resulting from trauma and blood vessel leakage.

The website said platelets help patients with bleeding disorders caused by leukemia and cancer treatment, or open-heart surgery. Also, according to the website, cancer patients may need transfusions of platelets if their bone marrow is not making enough. This happens, according to the site, when platelet-producing bone marrow cells are damaged by chemotherapy or radiation therapy or when they are crowded out of the bone marrow by cancer cells. A platelet donation provides as many of these blood-clotting cells as around five whole blood donations.

LifeSouth provides televisions, comfortable chairs, snacks and drinks to help keep donors comfortable during the donation.

Friendly atmosphere

But James and Bonnie West don’t watch television while donating their platelets.

James West said the donor center provides a safe comfortable place for he and his wife to spend time together.

“It’s time together where we can be just us,” James West said.

Bonnie West and James West usually sit reclined around 10 feet apart from each other as they donate their platelets.

“We do a lot of talking about the kids and work,” Bonnie West said.

Bonnie West said their three children all are already asking when they can donate their platelets, and make it a family affair. Bonnie West said their oldest child will soon be able to donate blood while her parents donate platelets after she recently turned 16 on Sept. 12.

“So I guess while we’re doing this (platelets) she could come donate blood,” Bonnie West said. “Our girls can’t wait to donate. Our youngest is 10, and she’s always asking.”

Bonnie West said they were inspired to start donating platelets together after a friend at church told them about it. She said he was later diagnosed with cancer, and passed away.

“It hit us personally. Somebody we knew… this is what it all goes towards,” Bonnie West said.

Bonnie West also says it’s an opportunity for her to share her faith in God with the people who work at LifeSouth. She’s become good friends with the people who work at LifeSouth, particularly Anna Tyson.

“We come here and we got these great people that always take good care of us,” Bonnie West said. “We cut up with Anna, and have a good time. We just really have a good time with the people here.”

After years of regularly coming to the donor center to donate, Bonnie West and Tyson became friends and now exchange text messages and share stories of their faith with each other.

“We could pop on a movie for two hours, but relationships happen for two hours,” Bonnie West said.

Tyson called Bonnie West very easy to talk to.

“She’s a very genuine person, and she gives amazing advice too,” Tyson said. “Talking to her I learned how to balance stuff as a Christian.”

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Three reasons to donate platelets:

  1. Platelets treat local cancer patients.
  2. Platelets are used quickly with a shelf-life of five days.
  3. A single platelet donation can provide as many platelets as five whole blood donations.

Anyone interested in donating their platelets can go to the LifeSouth Community Blood Center donor center located at 3833 Ross Clark Circle. For more information see the LifeSouth website at lifesouth.org.

Follow Matt on Twitter @ElofsonMatt.

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