A mobile Red Cross phlebotomist who has worked in the Sonora donation center has spent a lifetime as a recipient of blood platelet donations for treatment of an auto immune deficiency, which causes her to bleed profusely and bruise easily, often without any discernible cause.
Starting Jan. 5, the Red Cross Sonora Blood Donation Center will begin to collect blood platelet donations for infirm patients battling cancer, other life-threatening conditions, or for people like Breanna Pimentel, 24, of Lodi, who has idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura.
Pimentel has been an occasional face at Red Cross Sonora, acting as a phlebotomist for events such as the “Battle of the Badges,” a friendly blood-drive competition between the Sonora Police Department and the Sonora City Fire Department.
But her job has taken her around the general area, from Plymouth, to Stockton and El Dorado Hills, where she has come into contact with blood and platelet donors.
“I think that it's something very important. It's something that saved my life. It’s something that’s going to save my life in the future,” she said. “It’s close to my heart but it's definitely not an easy procedure to do. When you see someone going in to donate platelets they deserve the extra gratitude. It's definitely a way to maximize your donation and save more than one life.”
Platelets, which cause blood to clot, are primarily given to cancer patients and people with major illnesses who are unable to produce them.
Some chemotherapy drugs and radiation used to treat cancer can affect bone marrow where platelets are produced.
During a platelet donation, blood is collected by a device that separates platelets and plasma from the blood before the blood is returned to the donor’s body.
The process is rigorous, and often lasts about two to three hours, Pimentel said.
“If you see me you wouldn't think I was sick,” she said, but when she explains to potential donors the necessity of the procedures, they often have further appreciation for the donations, she said.
Through a childhood of popped blood vessels, bloody noses, and bruises or internal bleeding covering her body from an act as minimal as a seatbelt, Pimentel said her progressive improvement inspired her to pursue a career as a phlebotomist.
“I wanted to help as much as I got helped because I have been in the situation where i've needed platelets,” she said.
In most states, people who are 17 or older, weight at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate platelets.
Donors with types A positive, B positive and AB blood are encouraged to give platelets because Type AB platelets and plasma can be given to nearly all patients, regardless of blood type. Platelets may be donated every seven days, up to 24 times a year.
Members of the public interested in learning more are encouraged to call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).