The Liberty Gazette
December 23, 2008
December 23, 2008
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: For the past few years our friend, Ken Calman, of Glendale, Arizona, has been volunteering to help people in need. We asked Ken, U.S. Air Force veteran and general aviation advocate, to give us a glimpse of what he’s doing at this time in his life as he continues to serve his fellow man.
Ken: An unseen but vital enterprise is taking place in our towns every day, one that is invisible to the untrained eye but of life-saving importance to those in need: The collection, processing, and transport of human blood components.
United Blood Services is one of the largest processor-suppliers of human blood in the United States, second only to the Red Cross. UBS conducts blood drives daily in communities around the country. Whole blood collected throughout the day is taken to a nearby airport, where volunteers pick up the boxed blood donations and fly them to laboratory facilities where they separate the blood into platelets, plasma, and red blood cells, and store them there until a hospital needs them.
Plasma can be frozen so it has an unlimited shelf life, but possibly the most important blood component is platelets. These are the part of human blood that promote healing, and clog up leaks left after surgeons have re-connected blood vessels.
Linda: I gave platelets for my birthday this year, kind of a way to acknowledge that I am having another birthday. I hear platelets are used in large quantities by cancer patients.
Ken: Yes, platelets are vital but have a short shelf life. To keep fresh ones available, volunteers fly them from a laboratory to outlying hospitals daily. Every few days a “STAT” mission is received from a hospital, when blood components are urgently needed. The laboratory must get them to the hospital as quickly as possible. Lives depend on it. If the hospital is local a van quickly delivers the blood, but when the hospital is in a remote city then time, and speed, are critical. On my first meeting when I joined the Flight For Life group a young girl was there with her mother. Her life had been saved by blood transfusions and she was there to say 'thank you' and let us know that it meant a lot to her.
Linda: So without the pilot volunteers, and access through general aviation airports, some people might not get the blood they need in time? It must be quite gratifying to be a part of that.
Ken: It makes a dramatic picture at times. Imagine a lone, single engine plane landing on a snowy runway after dark, arriving at a facility all darkened and locked up. The pilot waits in the cold until the lights of an ambulance arrive. Boxes are quickly transferred from the ambulance to the plane. Short good-byes are made and the ambulance leaves while the plane takes off into the night. Lives may be saved. Your general aviation airport is at work.
Mike: Ken and pilots like him pay the costs of their volunteer flights. They do it because something in them drives them to keep on giving. And, as Dorothy Nettles says, if there’s no one to donate blood, there will be no missions for the pilots. So get out there and give!
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.