Student benefits from blood transfusions


View hosting blood drive July 2

Millennium High School senior Keegen Gibbs, 17, is proof that life can change in the blink of an eye.

It was a typical school day last year when an odd lump on his back caught his attention because it was uncomfortable to sit in his chair.

At first, he thought it might just be a knot in a muscle, because it didn’t hurt to press on it. Later that night, he asked his parents to look at it and they also thought it was a knot.

When the lump was still there two weeks later, his family took him to urgent care and the doctor sent him for an MRI and ultrasound.

They found out on Christmas Eve that it was a tumor underneath a muscle in his back, and surgery was scheduled in January to get a diagnosis.

Nothing prepared the family for the news from the oncologist — Keegen’s tumor was malignant, and he was diagnosed with an unclassified soft tissue sarcoma.

He is now past the halfway point of an aggressive treatment plan that includes chemotherapy and radiation. He’s also received at least eight blood transfusions so far.

“Thanks to blood donors, I have the strength to fight this cancer,” he said. “I’m humbled and grateful for their help in this battle.”

After each transfusion, his energy returns and he comes back to life, his family said.

Keegen will be a senior at Millennium this fall and plans to study business and agriculture at Kansas State University next year.

During his treatment, he discovered a passion for animals through his school’s FFA club, raising a pig named Skywalker and showing her at the Maricopa County Fair.

View’s blood drive

To help other people like Keegen, the West Valley View is holding a blood drive from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 2 inside the newspaper office, 1050 E. Riley Drive in Avondale.

Appointments are recommended, and people should sign up by 5 p.m. July 1. To schedule a time, visit and use the sponsor code “WVV.”

Blood donations drop by as much as 25 percent around the Independence Day holiday, said Sue Thew, spokeswoman for United Blood Services Arizona.

The organization is the state’s largest nonprofit community blood supplier, and fills the needs of 58 Arizona hospitals through six Valleywide donor centers and blood drives at organizations, schools and businesses.

One gallon of blood fulfills Arizona’s needs for about 15 minutes, and 700 donors are needed every day. The Goodyear location collects about 600 blood donations per month, Thew said.

Blood is separated into components so several patients can benefit from one donation. Red blood cells are used for surgery and trauma patients, plasma is used for patients suffering from internal bleeding and platelets are for cancer and leukemia patients.

The entire donation process takes an hour, but the blood collection only lasts about 10 minutes. It starts with a brief interview about your medical history and health, followed by a short physical before the actual donation.

The health history questionnaire can be done online the day of your donation at

Donor requirements

Eligible donors are at least 16 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds, have not donated in the past eight weeks, are healthy and not currently taking antibiotics.

Anyone younger than 18 needs permission from a parent to donate. The form can be found at Click on “Learn more” and then “Donor experience” to download.

Donors can either give whole blood or Power Red, which is a procedure that provides patients with two complete red cell transfusions. People with negative blood types are encouraged to give Power Red donations, because there’s more demand for them.

O-negative is the universal blood type for red blood cells. Only 6 percent of the population has the rare blood type, but it can be given to 100 percent of patients.

In emergency situations when there is no time to determine a patient’s blood type, doctors depend on O-negative blood until the patient can be stabilized. It’s also routinely used when premature babies and infants younger than 4 months old need lifesaving transfusions.

For Power Red donations, males must be a minimum of 130 pounds and 5 feet, 1 inch tall. Females must weigh at least 150 pounds and be 5 feet, 5 inches tall.

The entire process, including interview and physical, takes about 90 minutes and can be done every 112 days.

Before a donation, hydrate with plenty of water and eat a hearty, low-fat meal. Take your identification card and list of medications.

Anyone who donates will be entered to win a 2013 Volkswagen Passat S donated by Valley Volkswagen dealers, and will be entered into six daily raffles for a pair of tickets on the Grand Canyon Railway.

Emily McCann can be reached by email at or on Twitter @NewsbyEmily.