Why cancer patients need your blood donations now

HOUSTON – Around the holidays, local blood banks start struggling for donations. Blood and platelet donations are especially important for some cancer patients, who need transfusions almost daily.

MD Anderson is concerned this year it will be particularly hard to keep up with demands since the holiday falls in the middle of the week.

One La Porte mom asks people to take time to donate this season because it's generous and free. Her son, Parker, has spent more time living in the hospital than at home in the last seven months.

“Parker calls it the doctor's house," said Casey Dixon. "So, that's where we live."

Luckily for them, Parker has been showing improvement. He gets to go home after his last chemo treatment, and he even rang the ceremonial bell to mark the occasion, but he will return for regular visits to check his blood. If his platelet or red blood cell count is low, he will need a transfusion.

Dixon said before Parker’s diagnosis she didn't realize how critical blood was to his health and well-being. 

“When Parker needs red blood cells, he's tired, he's not playing," Dixson said. "He's just lying in a hospital bed and he really looks sick. You know their color changes, their whole demeanor, they won't eat or drink, then when they give patients the blood it is, it is literally giving them new life.”

MD Anderson blood donor manager Gary Griffin said that when donations go down and they don't have a regular supply, patients like Parker, who have blood cancers, might not get what they need.

“We've ran into times where we've had to tell our health care staff ‘We don't have the products,’” Griffin explained. “We have run out and couldn't take care of a patient, so what happens is we start prioritizing.”

Children are one of their priorities, since Griffin said they may be more sensitive to low blood cell counts.

Meanwhile, Parker is collecting “beads of courage” which is a strand of beads that represent all the types of treatments he's had. Each red bead represents every transfusion he’s gotten. There are 20 of them.

“Without those donations he wouldn't be here today,” Dixon said.

MD Anderson said they're always in most need of platelet donations, which can take a couple hours to give, and prefer donors to make an appointment so they can appropriately schedule a consistent supply.

If you cannot get to the Texas Medical Center to donate to MD Anderson, they encourage people to donate to any local blood bank since they often get help from nearby blood centers to maintain a consistent supply of blood.

To function smoothly, they need 50 to 100 donors per day.