Four years ago on Oct. 9, 2013, UNC Women’s Basketball Head Coach Sylvia Hatchell was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Today, Hatchell has won the battle against leukemia and is thrilled to say she is 100 percent healthy. Who does Hatchell credit for her victory? The UNC Blood Donation Center.
The UNC Blood Donation Center is dedicated to providing UNC Medical Center patients with platelets from volunteer donors. This year, the center is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
“During my battle with leukemia, there’s probably nobody who’s ever been at UNC Health Care that’s used more platelets than I have," Hatchell said. “I got platelets every few days, and sometimes I had more than one bag at a time. They saved my life, there’s no question about that.”
Hatchell said there are not many people who survive acute myeloid leukemia. She is lucky to be one of them.
“I was in treatment for seven and a half months,” Hatchell said. “I’m one of the few who survived and beat it, and now I’m fantastic.”
Around the holidays, the UNC Blood Donation Center contacts Hatchell and notifies her that the center's supply is low. Hatchell said she helps by sending out a mass email to everyone she knows to recruit them to donate.
“It’s amazing how people rally,” Hatchell said. “Some athletes will go, coaches go, donors and friends go. It’s amazing how they go over and give.”
Tom Neish has been the supervisor of the Blood Donation Center for 10 years.
“The Blood Donation Center was started about 20 years ago with the sole intention of actually providing platelets to UNC hospitals,” Neish said.
UNC students make up 70 percent of the center's donors. Neish said the center has many incentives for donors to continue donating to keep the supply up.
“If two or more donors come in together we give them movie tickets, and if three or more come in we buy pizza as well,” Neish said. “You can donate every 48 hours, up to twice a week, 24 times a year. Most donors try to donate once a month, and I think that’s a good schedule.”
Trilby Norton, donor recruiter for the Blood Donation Center, said the center tries to educate donors because most people don’t know what platelets are. The center solely collects platelets, and platelet donation is actually less taxing on the body.
“The platelets we collect are going to the sickest of the sick patients,” Neish said. “We’re talking your leukemia patients, your lymphoma patients and people with severe burns. We collect about half the platelets UNC uses.”
The UNC Blood Donation Center also holds a special place in the heart of Whitby Joyner, a former UNC grad student, who has been donating platelets since 1999.
“In 1994, I was in a car accident, and I got a lot of blood transplanted into me after that,” Joyner said. “I remember thinking after how cool it was that all the people who didn’t even know me were just strangers who wanted to give blood.”
Joyner said that he donates platelets as a way to give back.
“I figured that when I was able to give blood I would,” Joyner said. “It just feels right, like a sort of retribution.”
Joyner said the UNC Blood Donation Center is extremely familial.
“It’s such a good cause; I figured that out pretty quick,” he said. “Even saving one life is all that matters.”
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