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Materials handler employee donates gift of life

By Pfc. Shane Buckley | | March 1, 2001

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Somewhere in the world, someone is in dire need of help. It could be a co-worker, a neighbor, a friend, a family member or a total stranger. It doesn't matter who it is. The important this is, the person needs your help.

For nearly a decade, Albany Maintenance Center materials handler Michael Murray has been the answer to the prayers of some of those in need.

Murray, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant, has been visiting Albany's Red Cross Center every other week to donate a rare gift -- his platelets.

Platelets are the elements in the blood that causes clotting when an injury is sustained, thereby preventing excessive bleeding.

Murray is blessed with what is considered double the normal count of platelets in his body. "I consider it a gift to have extra platelets," Murray said. "It gives me the opportunity to help that many more people."

Murray began donating whole blood back in the late 1960s on a regular basis. Although the city of Albany didn't have an established blood donation center before 1994, Murray began donating platelets at Emory University Memorial Hospital in Atlanta several years earlier.

"I had a family member who was ill and in need of platelets," Murray said. "Ever since then, it just sort of became a habit."

Healthy bodies can continually regenerate platelets. Although platelets can be donated in only three days after the donor has given whole blood, they have to be used within five days.

Generally, platelet transfusions are used for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, patients with blood disorders such as anemia, and patients who need bone marrow transplants.

According to Murray, all it takes is a little time with hardly any effort. He said all you have to do is sit back and relax in a comfortable chair and watch a little television.

"Yeah, I could be sitting at home in front of my TV doing nothing productive, but I had a choice," Murray continued. "I chose to make a difference and do something that helps people," he said.

"A lot of people are in a big hurry to get no where, and at least this [Red Cross Center] is somewhere and more importantly, somewhere that make a difference," he said.

Joy Davis, a worker at the Red Cross Center, said that the blood and platelets they collect are shipped out every night and usually are used to save someone's life within 12-36 hours.

"It's a real easy, almost painless process with little or no side affects," Davis said.

"When someone gives blood, they experience a light-headed or dizzy feeling because a large amount of something [whether it is plasma, red cells, platelets or any combination] is removed from the body at one time."

When platelets are donated, blood is drawn from one of the donor's arm and circulated through a cell separator machine that collects platelets. The remaining blood components are through the donor's other arm.

"Michael was one of the first platelet donors this center ever had, and he's been the longest returning 'customer,'" Rena Thomas, a 14-year Red Cross worker said.

According to Murray, he doesn't know exactly what makes him come back every time. He attributed it to several factors.

"Like I've been saying, it's all about choice. I could have chosen not to come today or any other day, just like I chose to go to work instead of calling in," Murray continued.

"I live by a simple motto -- Today is the best day of the rest of my life," Murray said with a tone of conviction rarely seen today.

Nearly anyone who is 17 years old and weighs at least 110 pounds can donate platelets.

"When you get up on the wrong side of the bed, take a minute to get back in and crawl out the other side, and when you do, come down here [the Red Cross Center] and help someone. It's an invigorating feeling knowing you are saving someone's or someones' life [or lives]," Murray concluded.

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