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Blood drive to aid cancer victim

| Thursday, June 28, 2007

Lisa Klaric has watched her son receive blood transfusions in his fight against cancer since February. Now she is raising awareness in the community as a way to give back.

Eighteen-year-old Michael Klaric, of Vandergrift, has acute lymphocytic leukemia. He is undergoing aggressive chemotherapy at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh.

A blood collection and bone marrow typing drive will be held Saturday to help replenish the blood supply Michael is using.

Michael recently graduated from Kiski Area High School. He has been accepted at St. Vincent College, though he is holding off attending until next fall. He also has been a competitive swimmer for Kiski Area and other swim clubs since he was 6 years old.

For Lisa Klaric, Saturday's drive holds double meaning. The collection also is in memory of her mother Ann Pocetti. Ann was diagnosed with leukemia on May 2 and died 10 days later. At one point Ann and Michael were patients in the same hospital hall.

During Pocetti's time at the hospital, she received daily blood transfusions. Lisa Klaric said people don't realize how important the availabilty of blood is to patients.

Klaric said she decided to have a drive after reading a pamphlet at the hospital while her son was undergoing treatment.

John Pepper, spokesman for Central Blood Bank, said the drive is part of the organization's "Replenish the Need" program, which partners with local hospitals to assist patients who need blood.

Pepper said such personalized drives typically do better than regular blood drives because the community is motivated if one of their own is in need.

He said it is understood by the patient that not all of blood from the drive goes directly to them. It replenishes the supply that he or she has been using and helps others who may not have the same support in the community.

Sharon King, donor center coordinator for the National Marrow Donor program at Central Blood Bank, said Saturday's drive will also include an option for donors to have their marrow type recorded in the national registry.

Marrow typing is done in order to raise public awareness of the need for donors. About 7 million people are registered, but only 25,000 transplants have occurred over the past 20 years, King said.

People who choose to sign make a commitment that they can receive a call that someone from anywhere in the country is a match for their type.

Transplants are needed because marrow contains needed stem cells. When patients undergo chemotherapy, the treatment can kill healthy cells along with the cancer. Stem cells from bone marrow replenish healthy cells following chemotherapy.

Klaric said her son doesn't need a marrow transplant and hopes he never does but wants to raise awareness that other people are in need.

Pepper said the recent decline in blood collections for the summer increases the importance of "Replenish the Need" drives. The blood supply has not improved over the past week and despite a high collection over the weekend, a trauma case last Friday depleted the supply.

"What makes blood collection so difficult is that we don't know demand," he said. "We try to forecast as best we can."

Additional Information:

To help

What: Michael Klaric Blood Drive and Bone Marrow Typing.

When 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Where: St. Gertrude Roman Catholic Church, 303 Franklin Ave., Vandergrift.

For more info: Call Lisa Klaric at 724-568-3483.

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