Maybe the sun was out that day. Or maybe Dennis Cox looked at me at lunch. Or maybe that was one of the 47 days I was dismissed early to have my braces adjusted. Probably it was a lesson that my teacher presented more than once, but drizzled out my ear after the quiz. Platelets. What are they? What do they do, exactly?
Given the fact that I managed to avoid science classes entirely after ninth grade biology (except for that astronomy class in college, an apocryphal amalgamation of math and science still capable of giving me night terrors), it is not surprising that a year ago if you had asked me what a platelet was I would have responded, “that’s something in the blood, right?” I didn’t connect platelets with clotting, the lack of platelets with brain bleeding or the true meaning of apocryphal.
Michael and I stayed with Debbie and Guy Cartwright in Phoenix last week while we attended IRA. Old friends of mine, new friends to Michael. Guy’s daughter Margaret fought ITP in her childhood and like most kids, eventually outgrew its threat. He told us she got to a point that she could sense when her platelets were getting low, she’d be rushed to the hospital for an infusion. Because of other people’s generous donations, platelet transfusions had been available for Margaret to help her out of crisis.
As Stephie faded from our midst last May, the hospital waiting room swelled with grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors — all of whom would have willingly opened their veins to help her, but by then, after three days in the hospital, it was too late. Today, Stephie’s picture is on the front page of the ITP Foundation site and while we are all proud to see her there, we wish she were back here, singing along with Kelly Clarkston and Hanna Montana and cartwheeling across the living room.
I tagged along as my cousin Billie Holbrook donated blood last week and if you know anything about the blood suckers at the Red Cross, you know they didn’t let me get away without giving a pint. I hadn’t donated in years, I’m embarrassed to admit. And I had never given at a full service facility where they also take donations of platelets, a slightly more complicated procedure that takes 70 – 120 minutes. I had myself tested and it turns out I’m loaded with the things — 273,000 per microliter. To put that in perspective, Stephie’s level was 2,000 when she was admitted.
The Red Cross called me today to give me the good news that I am a viable candidate to donate platelets, which I will do for the first time next week because although it may be too late to help our Steph, it is not too late to help others.
We have all learned so much these past nine months. Learned about heartache, love, family — and the blood that binds us together as human beings. We are continually and simultaneously propelled and stricken by the love song of Stephie. We want every person who ever zoned out in biology class to know and understand the importance of platelets.