Gary Sprague knows that it is just as important to give as it is to receive. Gary and his wife, Peggy, became frequent platelet donors more than a decade ago when a colleague of Peggy’s was diagnosed with cancer. Platelets, the smallest component of whole blood, help blood to clot and control bleeding for cancer patients.
In recent years, Gary has also learned to appreciate the significance of receiving.
In December 2001, Gary needed an emergency appendectomy. Doctors warned him about recovery times and other symptoms to look for that could indicate a post-surgical problem.
Those symptoms didn’t come to mind the following January when Gary thought he was just getting a cold or the flu. He did his best to fight it off, but his fever continued to climb. He told Peggy that a trip to the emergency room was necessary. Peggy rushed him to the hospital where his temperature registered at nearly 107 degrees.
Strong antibiotics were not able to break the fever, which was now causing Gary to have hallucinations. As hospice personnel were preparing Peggy for the possibility of Gary’s death, doctors decided to try platelet transfusions as a last option. The units of platelets helped Gary to respond to the other treatments being administered. He returned home from the hospital a few days later to continue his recovery.
“Words can barely express my gratitude to the donors who give platelets regularly,” Gary said. “I believe I am alive today because of their generosity.” Gary often uses a well-known quote from George M. Cohan, the famous Broadway musical composer, to express his appreciation: “My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my wife thanks you and I thank you.”
After the year waiting period required by the FDA, Gary returned to donating platelets regularly in March 2003. Gary, also known as “Arizona’s Singing Cowboy,” performs for a variety of audiences across the state. He and Peggy reside in Cave Creek.