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December 26, 2014 10:00 PM

Donating Blood, Saving Lives

Aberdeen, SD

The gift of life is something blood banks are asking you to give this holiday season.

It's a pitch we often hear so often, it can almost seem cliché. But the need is real.

At Aberdeen Fire & Rescue, paramedics know firsthand how blood donation can save lives, some more than others.

"The type of cancer is called Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma and it's a type of liver cancer that primarily affects people in their teens and twenties," Matt Cler said.

It's also rare. Doctors diagnosed Cler with the disease in 2011.

"I had a surgery in June right away and I was clear for about two and a half years and then in December of this last year it came back in my lymph nodes so ever since then it's been a battle," Cler said.

He's been a frequent visitor to the hospital. In addition to regular scans, he's had three surgeries over the past year. He also had a multi-hospital stay that started with a trip to the emergency room after shoulder pain.

"We got there, they did a CT right away and they said my liver capsule was filling up with blood very, very quickly," Cler said.

He received blood or blood products in Aberdeen, Sioux Falls and at Mayo.

"I wouldn't have made it to Sioux Falls without the blood and it happened quick so without that blood I wouldn't be around today," Cler said.

There are a lot of people who can claim the same according to United Blood Services. Its Dakotas region serves more than 90 hospitals and needs to draw 500 units of blood from donors daily to keep up with demand according to donor recruitment representative Fern Elofson.

"Our shelves aren't as full as we would like them to be right now and it is partly because of the holidays. People get really busy," Elofson said.

Communities across the state hold different blood drives. Still, the demand for blood increases this time of year.

Some have conditions that require ongoing blood transfusions. Others find themselves in emergency situations.

"It takes three days for blood to be tested and ready to be transfused,” Elofson said. “So we have to be prepared, we have to be proactive rather than reactive and always be ready for those emergencies."

At Avera St. Luke's Hospital, trauma surgeon Dr. Christopher Larson says there's always the potential demand for a lot of blood very quickly.

"A bad car accident and someone ruptures their spleen, they bleed units and units of blood into their abdomen,” Dr. Larson said. “The two things to save their life is to, number one, stop the bleeding and the second thing is to replace their blood volume.”

Without blood on hand, Larson says, results could be fatal in many cases.

"It has to be immediately available, immediately available," Larson said.

"It's a real thing. It's very much a real thing," Cler said.

Despite a job and personal story to remind him of the real need for blood donation every day, Cler has decided to remain positive. The 29-year-old connects through Facebook with others battling the same cancer has him and says he knows others have it worse.

"There's really nothing other to do than to stay upbeat about it. You can't just dwell on it and lay down and cry about it. You've got to just keep going and move on with your life and hopefully they stay on top of it," Cler said.

He also hopes there’s always blood available when needed.

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