by Tori Hamby

Blythe Elementary School technology assistant Janet Sargent has never donated blood.

But this past summer, she watched as her husband, Lee, received more than 80 lifesaving blood and platelet transfusions after doctors diagnosed him with myelodypastic syndromes, or preleukemic blood disease.

Not only will she participate in this year’s Blythe Elementary blood drive, she also will lead the Nov. 28 event.

“Over the summer, I witnessed how greatly my husband benefited from the willingness of strangers to donate their blood,” Janet Sargent said.

From noon to 4:30 p.m., parents of Blythe Elementary students will donate blood to the American Red Cross, which has experienced shortages due to Hurricane Sandy last month.

“Our Red Cross representative told us that ... the blood banks will have been shut down due to power outages or situations where people can’t get to them to donate,” Janet Sargent said.

Lee Sargent’s bone marrow transplant was scheduled for last week, but postponed after final pre-surgery bone marrow biopsy revealed that the disease had progressed to acute leukemia.

“I was told immediately that the transplant would fail and it was postponed,” Lee Sargent, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam veteran, said in an email. He previously battled two other types of cancer. Before the transplant, he will undergo one week of chemotherapy 24 hours a day followed by a week of rest.

Now that Lee Sargent has a family member, his sister, to be his “perfect” bone marrow donor match, he is inviting the school’s parents to join the National Marrow Donor Program’s Be The Match’s bone marrow registry.

When adults 18-44 join the registry, they can use a registration kit to take a swab of their cheek cells. The tissue type results will allow NMDP to match potential donors to patients. Potential donors in the registry have the right to refuse to donate if chosen.

Bone marrow transplants treat people with various blood cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma and sick cell. Blood cells are produced in the bone marrow.

Chemotherapy destroys the “bad” marrow, then the healthy donor marrow is transfused into the patient’s bloodstream.

Sargent said that her husband’s medical ordeal has changed the way she views blood donation.

“I was overwhelmed by the people I saw receiving life-saving blood for numerous reasons other than trauma or surgery,” she said.

Want to help?

The American Red Cross needs organizers to host blood drives following Hurricane Sandy. Go online to www.redcross to register.

As a host, volunteers will be expected to offer a suitable location, recruit donors, publicize the drive and schedule donors for their appointments.

In return the American Red Cross:

• Helps determine how many donors to expect and how to recruit them

• Brings and sets up medical equipment and supplies to the hosting locations

• Offers confidential screen donors and collects donations in a safe and professional manner