Meet Boston Marathon Runner and Platelet Donor Wendy Akeson

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By Saul Wisnia

Wendy Akeson is passionate about both running and donating platelets. Never has she felt such a strong connection between these two roles as she did this year.

Four minutes after completing her 10th consecutive Boston Marathon, Akeson heard the explosions that will forever link this year’s marathon with tragedy – and then saw people running toward her from the finish line she had just crossed.

Wendy Akeson

Marathon runner and platelet donor Wendy Akeson

It was a terrifying moment that understandably rattled the 44-year-old. But Akeson, a veteran of 28 marathons, knew two things very quickly: she would be back to run Boston again in 2014, and she would not miss her next bi-weekly donation of platelets at the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“I can’t change the fact three people lost their lives or so many people lost limbs, but I can do this, give of my time and my platelets,” says Akeson, an Ashland, Mass., resident who has donated platelets more than 100 times.

Platelets are the blood-clotting component that helps individuals whose own blood has lost its clotting ability due to conditions including cancer and severe wounds like those suffered by many marathon victims. “The marathon reinforced that what we do is so important, and now I’m more committed than ever to keep coming in,” Akeson says.

Donor recruiter Sean Wiedemeier says the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center received more than 1,000 emails in the first week after the marathon bombings from people wanting to donate. Because platelets have a shelf-life of five days, and other blood products for longer, victims of the tragedy received products that were donated in the days and weeks prior.

“It was very inspiring how many people were contacting us within hours of the bombing,” says Wiedemeier. “There is always somebody who needs what we have, so this upsurge will allow us to help many more people down the line. But it’s also important that people keep coming in.”

Just like Wendy Akeson has, and just like she will continue to do every other Monday – unless, of course, there is a race to run.

The Kraft Family Blood Donor Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital is always in need of both whole blood and platelet donors. Please email the center at blooddonor@partners.org or call 617-632-3206 to help patients at both hospitals who depend upon life-saving transfusions.

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