COVID-19 threatens platelet supplies, raising new concerns for cancer patients

COVID-19 threatens platelet supplies, raising new concerns for cancer patients

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As if battling cancer wasn’t hard enough, the coronavirus outbreak has added more concerns, like a potential shortage of blood and platelet donations which some cancer patients critically need.

They include people like Christy Morrison, who in the last couple of years has been through a lot -- the death of her son-in-law, a former LMPD officer, followed by a diagnosis of a rare form of cancer at stage 4.

“In the meantime, I’ve been doing a lot of radiation and chemotherapy treatment,” Morrison said.

As it does with many other cancer patients, the chemotherapy affects her blood’s ability to clot. Morrison depends on monthly platelet and blood transfusions, something that could save her life.

"If I fall, I have to go to the emergency room to make sure I don't have a brain bleed," she said. "I bruise very easily, a little paper cut can just constantly bleed."

While she said she’s done her best to keep away from the deadly COVID-19, the virus has still found a way to reach her.

This week she was not given her normal platelet transfusion in an effort to conserve resources if a shortage of donations becomes critical.

“Not having access to that can be scary,” she said.

The American Red Cross says it has been able to meet the hospitals’ demands but there is concern about the near future.

“There’s always a high demand,” Tiffany Taylor, the Communications Manager for the American Red Cross, said. “That demand is not going away.”

Platelets only have a five-day shelf life, Taylor said, making things even more urgent.

“Every day, 2,600 platelet donations are needed across the country,” Taylor said, adding that eligible donors can donate every seven days, up to 24 times a year. She said such donations could save a life.

The Red Cross said someone in the U.S. receives platelets every 15 seconds, and more than half of the donations go to cancer patients like Morrison, who has hugged her children and grandchildren ever-so tightly recently.

“If I start feeling low,” she said, “Facetime with my children will really bring me up.”

Morrison said she depends on one other thing.

“One word that comes to mind is hope,” she said. “I have hope for a lot. I hope every day that I heal. I have hope that, um, for the people that are suffering every day through this COVID-19, for the doctors, nurses.”

"All of us need to do our part and hang tight so we can make it to the other end," Morrison said.

The American Red Cross is taking platelet and blood donations. The process of donating platelets takes about two hours. Taylor said donors can relax in ergonomic chairs and watch movies or videos.

You can call 1-800-RED-CROSS or click here to learn more about donating.

Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.