By Michaela Gibson Morris
TUPELO – Jim Murphree used to think two hours was too much to give.
The Tupelo man, who has been a regular blood donor since high school, would pass on requests to consider platelet donations during his regular trips to United Blood Services.
In 2012, friend Caleb Brand of Saltillo was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and needed platelets. Murphree was among the many who rolled up their sleeves and made time in his schedule to help Brand.
“What’s two hours to help someone out,” Murphree said. “People going through chemotherapy have to sit in a chair for six hours.”
During his treatment, Brand needed multiple transfusions. He considers Murphree and the others who donated for him heroes.
“Without the donations, I wouldn’t have been able to endure the chemotherapy to get into remission,” Brand said. “People like Jim are really selfless.”
Brand is now in remission, but Murphree still aims to carve out two hours a month from his duties overseeing the wholesale and warehouse operations at his family’s business, The Cotton Bolt, to donate platelets.
“If you don’t know someone with cancer now,” Murphree said, “you will at some point.”
United Blood Services needs more people like Murphree.
“Right now we’re importing at least 50 units of platelets a week,” said Rhonda Weaver, donor recruitment supervisor.
Platelets are especially challenging because they have a short shelf life – five days – and the demand for them is unpredictable, said Dr. Mark Huffman, medical director for the lab at North Mississippi Medical Center.
“You can’t stockpile them for when you have an emergency,” Huffman said.
Platelets are part of the body’s clotting mechanism. In addition to closing cuts on the skin, platelets seal microscopic tears throughout the vascular system.
For cancer patients, chemotherapy slows the body’s ability to make platelets in the bone marrow. If their platelet counts go low enough, they are at significant risk for minor trauma or even spontaneous bleeding.
Donated platelets are also life-savers for trauma and surgical patients who are losing a lot of blood. A car wreck with multiple patients and a ruptured aorta could wipe a hospital’s supply out without warning.
“You never know when you’re going to have a need for a large supply of platelets,” Huffman said.
The height and weight requirements to donate platelets are the same as they are for whole blood, Weaver said. Donors’ platelet levels are checked to make sure they can safely give and to determine how much they can give.
During the platelet donation process, the blood is collected and spun in a centrifuge to separate the components. The red blood cells and plasma are returned to the donor, who can give again in two weeks.
It’s a fairly easy process – the needle for platelet donation is smaller than the one for whole blood – and the two hours go by quickly, Murphree said.
“I usually sit and read the Daily Journal and catch up on sports,” Murphree said.