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Woman’s rare blood helps others

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Leslie Tanoue is among the Blood Bank of Hawaii’s small group of donors with blood that can help children with a rare disorder.

Tanoue’s blood is used to help people diagnosed with thalassemia major, a disorder that destroys red blood cells and leads to anemia.

Last month, Tanoue squeezed a rubber ball for the 70th time to give a pint of her blood and encourage others to do the same.

Tanoue has O-positive blood with antigens that match those of patients with thalassemia. Unmatched antigens would cause the patient’s immune system to make antibodies that destroy the transfused red blood cells.

"When we saw a special sticker placed on our blood bags and we learned that our blood is rare, it was exciting and motivating and stressed the importance of regular donations," Tanoue said in a news release.

According to the National Institutes of Health, thalassemia can lead to severe anemia, bone deformities in the face, fatigue, growth failure, shortness of breath and jaundice. Severe thalassemia can lead to heart failure and liver problems.

"There’s no cure for it," said Dr. Randal Covin, associate medical director of the Blood Bank of Hawaii.

Children diagnosed with thalassemia major may require regular blood transfusions as treatment to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

According to the Blood Bank of Hawaii, 60 percent of the population will need blood during their lifetime, but only 2 percent of Hawaii residents are blood donors.

For information on how to donate, call the Blood Bank of Hawaii at 845-9966.


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