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VTANG airman donates platelets

Posted 7/19/2012   Updated 1/22/2013 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Victoria Greenia
158th Fighter Wing

7/19/2012 - SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -- For more than 12 years Senior Master Sgt. Craig Sanborn from St. Albans, Vt., a vehicle maintenance superintendent at the 158th Fighter Wing, has routinely fought with Burlington traffic to go to the American Red Cross. Once there, both of his arms get stuck with IVs and then he sets back for the next two hours as his blood is siphoned into a cell-separating machine collects. His platelets are collected and the remaining plasma is returned back into Sanborn's system.

The kind of dedication Sanborn has comes from many people in his life who have touched him. His first encounter with the miracle of life-saving platelets was with a childhood friend who, some 40 years ago, got leukemia. The doctors gave her a prognosis of one year to live. After undergoing bone marrow transplants and platelet transfusions in those early years she is, thankfully, still around today.

It was after he had joined the Vermont Air National Guard that he became close to a fellow airman who inspired Sanborn to make a commitment to blood donations. "Ray Little did platelet apheresis and said he had donated more than 55 gallons of blood and underwent two bone marrow transplants," Sanborn said. Impressed by Little's dedication, he decided that to get on a schedule for frequent donation. For the past four years he's gone to the Red Cross every third Tuesday to give his platelets to those in need.

According to the American Red Cross's Platelet Donation web page, a person can donate up to 24 times a year. A single donation, it says, can give up to three therapeutic doses to patients. The American Cancer Society's website states that platelet transfusions are necessary for some cancer victims because the disease can inhibit the body from producing or holding onto red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. People with this anemia may get dizzy often or have a hard time breathing - in addition to all the other complications that may come with having cancer.

Most times a donor will never know to whom his or her blood goes to, but Sanborn had the unique experience of personally being able to help out a community member. It was a 12-year-old girl with cancer, Sanborn said. "It takes commitment to go every three weeks for the platelet donation and be strapped in for a few hours each time. But knowing there was a little girl who matched my platelets and desperately needed them is motivation to keep me going back."

Sanborn said he's talked to people who have received platelet transfusions, although it's unlikely it was his, and they are always appreciative of those who take time to donate. He says it's a special part of his life to know he's making a difference in someone else's.

Cementing his dedication to the donations, Sanborn's father, who had struggled with cancer in the 80s, passed away from it just last year. "People do the Relay for Life or the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to show their support for cancer victims and survivors," Sanborn said. "Donating platelets is what I do. We all give in our own ways."

It's easy to donate, a person just needs to get out and do it. Even going as often has he does, Sanborn said he doesn't feel tired or unhealthy from giving. Every donation helps a person - someone's mother, father, daughter, son, sister, brother, or friend. To learn more about donating to the American Red Cross, visit their web page at www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

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