Giving the gift of life

ORANGE - Sticking to her convictions 15-year-old Katie Winkle held her second blood drive last weekend at High Plains Community Center.Katie has continued to support the American Red Cross in its effort to keep a supply of blood on hand for those in need. Katie has said the reason she feels so strongly was finding herself in a position to need blood.The Orange community supported Katie throughout her fight after she was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in June 2006.

"I wanted to give back what I received. I got a lot of support and received countless blood products," Katie Winkle said.

"I wanted to spark awareness for the need for blood donations," the 15 year old said.

The teenager underwent intensive chemotherapy for her disease which is in remission.Dozens of volunteers were on hand to help in any way needed. All were wearing Katie's Krew T-shirts. All said they were inspired by Katie and were more than happy to participate. Many town residents watched Katie's determination on the ballfield and were inspired by it. And have been inspired even more by her determination to beat the disease and give back to her community at the same time.Katie was a pitcher for the Orange Little League World Series team in 2005. Orange came in second place in the Championship game in Portland, Ore.

"This (Katie's illness) has been a life-changing experience for us. We are more appreciative of everyday life. And the community spirit (for her) is beyond words," Chris Winkle, Katie's mother, said.

When asked if Katie was back on the ballfield yet her parents said she had just undergone surgery.

"Katie just had shoulder surgery and hopes to be able to resume softball in the springtime," her parents said. Katie's father explained that softball was not a priority these days.

"I used to think sports was our life. It just goes to show you how we need to appreciate life. Sports is secondary to us these days," Craig Winkle, Sr. said adding "Katie is very lucky that she can still participate.

The blood drive was held for four hours Saturday and 145 pints were collected with 125 registered donors. In May Katie's Krew collected 106 pints. One of Katie's nurses from Yale-New Haven Hospital 'Seven West' was a donor this time. She said Katie inspired her.

"She is one of the best. She fought so hard this is the least I can do," Lindsay Zuraw said.

Heavenly Donuts on Route 34 provided refreshment for the donors and staff.

To give blood you must be at least 17, weigh at least 110 lbs. The entire process takes about one hour.

According to the National Marrow Donor program ( AML is a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. In AML, the bone marrow makes many unformed cells called blasts. Blasts normally develop into white blood cells that fight infection. However, the blasts are abnormal in AML. They do not develop and cannot fight infections. The number of abnormal cells grow quickly crowding out the normal red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets the body needs.

Symptoms of AML are caused by low numbers of healthy blood cells and high numbers of leukemia cells.

* White blood cells fight infection. Low numbers can lead to fever and frequent infections.

* Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. Low numbers can lead to anemia — feeling tired or weak, being short of breath and looking pale.

* Platelets control bleeding. Low numbers can lead to easy bleeding or bruising and tiny red spots under the skin (petechiae).

* High numbers of leukemia cells may cause pain in the bones or joints.

A person with AML may feel generally unwell and run-down. He or she may also have other, less common symptoms.