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Blood donor's labour of love

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Blood donor's labour of love
Ellen Fedele donates blood because she knows it can save a life. “I am doing this knowing that I am tangibly helping someone to stay alive,” said Ms Fedele on the occasion of her 100th blood platelet donation.
“I met a young man who suffers with Aplastic Anaemia and his mom said he is being kept alive by the donations of blood platelets he receives,” Ms Fedele said.
“When I found out that his blood group was A+, like mine, the thought occurred to me that it could be my blood keeping him alive, and that is a very spe- cial thought because he is a very special person.”
Ms Fedele said that donating blood was a 16th birthday wish come true for her.
With only one kidney, the young Ellen first needed the permission of her then doctor to go ahead with her donations, which he gave. According to Ms Fedele, one needs to be 17 years of age before being allowed to donate blood in the Western Cape but in Gauteng, where she was living at the time, 16 is the accepted entry age.
According to Ms Fedele, her parents, who were always thinking about the welfare of other people,
donated blood on regularly when they were younger. She said that it was their example that inspired her to get involved herself.
“I donated ‘whole blood’ for many years but switched over to donating blood platelets four years ago,” she said, explain- ing that in a normal blood donation a donor will donate a pint of their blood every two months. This blood is then used for patients who need blood after an acci- dent or operation.
“To donate platelets, technically known as Aphaeresis Donation, you get hooked up to a very expensive machine that draws out your blood and separates it into its constituent plasma, red cells and platelets,” Ms Fedele said.
“The platelets and plasma are extracted for use and the rest is transferred back to the donor,” she said.
Platelets play a vital role in clotting blood and preventing excessive blood loss and are used to treat patients with leukemia, aplastic anaemia and other blood disorders.
Ms Fedele said that although there are many places in the Western Cape to donate blood, the only place to donate platelets in the Western Province is the headquarters of the Western Province Blood Transfusion Service (WPBTS) in Pinelands.
She said the procedure takes much longer than a normal blood donation.
“It takes up to two hours a time, but the side-effects are minimal in comparison. I sit in a comfortable chair, watch a movie and get given a sandwich and a coffee and afterwards pop right of the chair and carry on with my day like nothing has happened,” Ms Fedele said.
However, to donate blood platelets one has to be dedicated, Ms Fedele continued to explain.
“You have to be a regular blood donor, have a blood platelet count above a certain amount, be healthy, above 50kg and not have very high or low blood pressure. Then, each time you donate platelets you have to fill in a form, answering questions
about whether or not you have had your ears pierced, had a tattoo, engaged in risky sexual behavior, etc,” Ms Fedele said.
“I live my life from month to month thinking; ‘Is this ok for my donations?’ because I don’t want to jeopardise my chance to make a donation,” Ms Fedele continued.
“All the effort is worth it though,” she said, “it is a small price to pay in order to save the life of someone.” 

Words and images by Clinton Wittstock
Freelance writer and photographer
Article appeared in the Constantiaberg Bulletin

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