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Fire victim gives cancer patients hope

December 2, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
One Sylmar man who lost his home, his cars and all his possessions to the wildfires few weeks ago remains thankful this holiday season. Because there's one thing he can still give and it gives him great satisfaction.On November 15 in Sylmar's Oakridge Mobile Home park, Dirk van Rensburg saw everything he owned burn to the ground.

"I lost the home and everything in my life of 63 years. There was not even one memento left," said Dirk.

But the fire did not destroy what he feels is his most valuable asset. Within 72 hours of losing everything, he went to the City of Hope to donate the only thing he had left: the platelets in his blood.

"Everything is the same," said Dirk.

This was Dirk's 164th time to donate. He says the opportunity to save just one life is worth more than all his material possessions.

Platelets are very delicate they cannot be refrigerated or frozen. That is why they only have a five day shelf life. Cancer patients at the City of Hope have a constant need, without platelets they cannot survive.

Patients who have undergone cancer treatments, have undergone transplants, their bodies have difficulty creating those platelets on their own," said Gay Almquist, City of Hope/Donor Apheresis Center.

The hospital did not meet its blood or platelet donor goals in November, and with the holidays December looks even bleaker.

In Southern California, only three percent of people who are eligible to donate actually do. Platelet donation takes almost two hours.

Whenever Dirk donates, he remembers a cancer survivor he once met.

"He looked at me then wrapped his arms around me, and asked how he could thank me," explains Dirk.

Hard economic times or not, this is a precious gift almost anyone can give.

"See what they can do and then ask yourself if you can make a contribution," said Dirk.

And Dirk is hoping your answer will be yes. Your platelets can be given to any one, you don't have to be a match.


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