IOWA CITY, Iowa - On Memorial Day, 21-year-old Payson Kerns, of Edgewood, found himself in an emergency room. He felt sick with pain in his ribs. It was supposed to be a relaxing holiday. Instead, it became the most stressful moment of his life. Doctors diagnosed Payson with leukemia. He felt powerless. "Shocked, didn't really want to believe it," said Payson.
Payson's parents wanted to do all they could to help their son, but didn't know where to start. So they asked. "The nurses and the doctors both mentioned that there is quite a need for donating platelets," said Payson's father, Jim Kerns.
Platelets make your blood clot. A lot of them are lost when battling leukemia. They're destroyed either by the disease or chemotherapy. "I have to have a lot of transfusions of platelets or else, if I just get touched, I start bruising or I could bleed out," said Payson.
The Kerns put out a request for platelet donors on the web and their small town of about 860 answered the call. For days now residents, and others from around Edgewood, have been driving over an hour to Payson's hospital, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, to make a donation. "It's just something I can do, at least," said Mary Lou Robinson, who has known Payson since he was five.
About 20 have given so far and more are scheduled in coming weeks. Not all the donations go to Payson, though. They're being split amongst other patients in need at UIHC. "It's so helpful this time of year. Summer is typically a really tough time to get enough platelet donors and whole blood donors. People are busy with vacations and schools out," said Paula Dayton, donor recruitment coordinator.
The response has Payson feeling a lot of love. "People said they would come and they sure as heck have," he said.
Now he can focus on the next step of fighting cancer. "Just, beat it," said Payson.
Payson is going through chemotherapy and is awaiting a bone marrow transplant from one of his sisters.
If you'd like to help out, contact UIHC's blood center at (319) 356-2058 to setup an appointment.