Putting a face to the need for blood donations - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Putting a face to the need for blood donations

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The gift of life marathon is set for Tuesday, the final attempt at a record breaking one-day blood drive.

But for many this day has become more than a blood drive, and a point of pride in the community. And one local supporter is sharing her story in hopes of inspiring a few new donors this year.

The morning production is over, but the work is far from done at PEG TV in Rutland.

Amanda Wheeler works as a reporter and anchor for the Rutland County Public Access station, but there is something most people do not know about her.

"I have ankylosing spondylitis," she says.

It's a big word, and a major diagnosis that she's been living with for the past three years and her pain fluctuates day to day.

"My joints get very inflamed which can cause bone fusion. It is very painful," she says.

Her immune system is basically knocked out by this disease so she needs immunoglobulin infusions -- which come from blood plasma -- to fight off the common cold.

"It takes 1,000 blood donations to make one infusion of immunoglobulin, that is just for a one time three hour infusion for one person," Wheeler says.

Blood drives are one of the ways this plasma is sourced, so Wheeler is making it her mission to get donors signed up for the gift of life marathon in Rutland this coming Tuesday.

Organizers say her story is exactly what people need to hear to get them in the door next week.

"I think Amanda's story is a really important one because it really puts a face on it," says Steve Costello with Green Mountain Power. "We are going to collect potentially 2,000 pints of blood, and where is that going to go? For most people it is an anomalous thing, it just disappears."

Costello says every year the focus is on first time donors to keep up with blood supply demands.

"Once you get them to try it one time they get over the fear and uncertainty about what it's going to be like. It's really a painless and simple process and then they are apt to come back time and time again," Costello says.

Wheeler cannot donate this year but she will be there. She says it is an atmosphere and energy level you cannot explain until you experience it for yourself. The Red Cross is putting an end to one-day-record attempts after this year's blood drive, but Wheeler hopes the enthusiasm to donate will stay the same even if the event changes.

"I just want people to be aware of what they can do to help. It's not about sympathy, and more about education," she says.

The Red Cross is still accepting appointments for next week's blood drive at 4 different locations throughout the city.

For more information, visit the Gift of Life website: http://giftoflifemarathon.com

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