Story by Harriet Vanderbilt/Red Cross Cascades Region
Paul is a hero, a person who helps people and, likely, saves lives.
Unlike Superman, he does not become a hero by changing his clothes in a phone booth. He becomes a hero when he donates blood, a very special type of blood.
He is among 15% of the population with CMV negative blood.
Paul Carlson has the universal O- blood type.
“I began donating blood in the 1980’s at blood drives held by my employer, Crown Zellerbach, in Camas, WA.,” Carlson said. “Then I moved on and did not donate again until perhaps 10 years ago.”
A Red Cross donation scheduler told Paul that he had CMV negative blood. CMV negative blood has no CMV virus antibodies. His blood is used to treat newborns whose immune systems that are not yet fully developed. It is called pediatric-specific blood. The status of CMV in blood is established with a blood test.
CMV, or cytomegalovirus, is a common flu-like virus. It is a member of the herpes family that includes cold sores, chicken pox, and infectious mononucleosis. It is estimated that nearly 85% of adults in the U.S. have been exposed to it by the time they reach 40 years of age. CMV is contagious. It is passed by close contact with bodily fluids such as blood, breast milk, saliva, and more.
As with all viruses, once a person contracts this virus, their body retains the antibodies. Most individuals never know they have the virus. However, they are positive for the antibodies. There is no vaccine for CMV. People with no antibodies have CMV negative blood.
Paul’s CMV negative blood also helps people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer and transplant patients. Their systems are very fragile. Their eyes, lungs, liver, nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract may be damaged if they do not receive CMV negative blood.
It is important to address the risks of CMV as well as its virtues. CMV causes more birth defects and congenial disabilities than more well-known diseases like Down Syndrome. A mother whose first exposure to CMV is during pregnancy has a 40% chance of passing it on to her baby in utero. However, only 10% are likely to have complications such as hearing loss.
Paul has donated 26 pints so far.
“I did a ‘double’ once and platelets were removed. I’m glad to be of help to other people. I feel better about life when I know I am making a difference. I believe that the more you give in life, the more you get back.”
The Red Cross calls O+ and O- donors who are CMV negative Heroes for Babies.
Paul is a rare breed indeed! He’s a hero. Please have your blood tested for this special ‘high octane’ blood. It will save lives!
Visit www.redcrossblood.org to learn more and to sign up to donate today!