I have been badgering whoever reads this blog about platelets and blood lately. For those of you going, platewhats?, allow me to quickly nutshell what platelets are. They are odd little cells that circulate in our blood and are the Mr. Fix Its of the bloodstream. When we cut ourselves, platelets arrive on the scene to form a clot and stop the bleeding. When we otherwise injure ourselves, they form internal clots that appear as bruising on the surface of our skin. If we have too many platelets, we run the risk of forming dangerous blood clots, if we have too few, well, let’s just say that injuries should be avoided.
Previous to having chemotherapy, Gavin’s platelet count was a healthy 300 or so. Once chemo begins, platelets are devastated, and often are the last counts to return to normal. While going through the worst of his high-dose chemo, Gavin’s platelet count plummeted to 9. NINE. He received platelets almost every day at one point, and then began to receive them twice daily for a few weeks to help his lungs to heal. On their own, bags of platelets are sort of straw-coloured or orangey in appearance. There was a time when I feared Gavin’s platelet transfusions, and then I welcomed the arrival of those bags with a sigh of relief, because I lived in fear of his every little bump and bruise.
There are very few platelet donors in Canada. Luckily, those who donate are committed to the cause. Platelets are collected by apheresis, which means that your blood is returned to your body after the platelets are skimmed. Those who donate often do so every two weeks, it takes an hour to an hour and a half. A little while ago, I determined to become a platelet donor too, but then discovered that no woman with a history of pregnancy is eligible to donate. Obviously, this limits the amount of people who are able to donate. Hence the badgering.
I know that many of you are saying to yourselves, I don’t like needles, I’ll faint, I can’t stand the sight of blood. To which I say, yes, yes, all valid excuses. (Um, not really?) I used to employ all of those handy excuses myself. Sometimes, though, life asks you to be courageous and just stop your whining.
Although Gavin’s chemo ended more than two months ago, he still has not shown complete count recovery. He has battled to make more platelets, and has received transfusions at our clinic visits. On Tuesday his counts were in the 50s, but on the chance that his counts were rebounding, we chose to wait for today to see what was happening. 73. 73. 73! On the way up, he is finally, finally generating some thrombocytes of his own again.
Welcome back, little platelets.