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Cancer survivor met life-saving blood donors

January 29, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Most blood donors and recipients don't get to meet, but one L.A. woman met the 10 strangers who directly saved her life.When 56-year-old cancer survivor Alta Ray met the blood donors who saved her life, it blew her away.

"To see all those tall, young men, it was amazing," said Alta.

"You'll never know whose life you'll save" was a running theme at Friday's luncheon honoring UCLA's top blood and platelet donors.

Due to confidentiality, most donors never know who they're giving their blood to. Now, for the first time, Alta, a South L.A. mother of four, gets to meet the people who made the small sacrifices that saved her life.

"I feel full of grace. I feel so honored," said Alta.

Alta suffered from a cancerous growth around her heart and an aggressive form of leukemia. Through her three rounds of chemo, radiation and a bone marrow transplant, she used up 93 types of blood products.

"If patients get a good response to a particular donor, we monitor that, and we'll call the donors and ask them to come back and donate just for that patient," explained Dr. Alyssa Ziman of the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center.

Matthew Hoffman, 48, ended up being one of those people for Alta. Doctors say that his platelets appeared to be just what she needed.

"When you donate your blood or your platelets, every last drop goes to the person who needs it, and that's an amazing donation," said Hoffman.

To donate platelets, a person must be 17 years old, at least 110 pounds and in good health. The process takes about two hours.

"It's just something you can do. It's just your time, and it doesn't cost money, and it's priceless," said Ziman.

"If you're healthy, it's a small sacrifice to help a fellow human being," said Alta.

Why some patients get a good response with certain donors is pretty much unknown. Ziman thinks that it may have to do with the antibodies that are produced. Many of the donors at the luncheon donate on a regular basis, about 25 times a year, which is the maximum.