The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

February 14, 2014

Area couples grow closer while donating platelets

JOHNSTOWN — A couple who donate platelets together stay together.

That statement holds true for Russ and Cheryl Wirfel of New Germany and Matt and Brenda Molnar of Johnstown, who have been rolling up their sleeves and donating platelets – the small cell fragments that help to control bleeding – for years and giving the gift of life to those in need.

Both couples are platelet apheresis donors, which allows them to give just one part of their blood. During this type of donation, an apheresis machine collects the platelets and some plasma, then returns the red cells and most of the plasma to the donor.

A single platelet donation can provide enough platelets for a full therapeutic dose for a patient. Some platelet donations yield enough platelets for two or three therapeutic doses. In contrast, it takes four to six whole blood donations to produce a single therapeutic dose.

Platelet donors are able to donate up to 24 times in a 12-month period.

Cheryl Wirfel, 58, said she started donating platelets five years ago as a way to spend more time with her husband.

“Russ was donating on Saturdays and I started going with him because I didn’t like spending Saturday alone,” she said.

Russ Wirfel, 65, who has donated platelets for eight years, changed to this type of donation after giving whole blood for more than 20 years.

“I was told I have a high platelet count, so I made the switch to platelet donation because there is a need for it,” he said.

The Wirfels donate every two or three weeks on Saturdays at the Johnstown Donor Center, 250 Jari Drive in Richland Township.

For Cheryl Wirfel, the donation process takes about an hour and a half and requires both arms.

“They take the blood out of my one arm, spin the platelets out and put the blood back into my other arm,” she said.

It takes Russ Wirfel two hours to donate and he uses only one arm.

“From start to finish it takes about three hours,” Cheryl Wirfel said. “They make you feel as comfortable as possible while you’re donating, and the people and phlebotomists are simply wonderful.”

Together they’ve provided more than 300 platelet products for patient care.

Both agree they plan to donate for as long as they’re able.

“It takes a little bit of our time, but we know our donation is helping people so that makes it worth it,” Cheryl Wirfel said.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” Russ Wirfel said.

Prior to starting platelet donation 10 years ago, the Molnars donated whole blood at a site in downtown Johnstown. After it closed, they went to the Richland center and were given a tour of the facility. It was there they were introduced to platelet donation and thought it looked interesting.

“I never thought much about donating, but Brenda talked me into it,” said Matt Molnar, 48. “After hearing about what apheresis is and how much platelets are needed for cancer patients, I decided they might as well take out of me what they can.”

They donate every two weeks on Wednesdays.

Brenda Molar does the two-arm donation and her husband does one. The process takes them about three hours.

“I don’t find it to be a burden. It’s part of our scheduled routine just like going to the store,” said Brenda Molnar, 59. “Everyone who works at the center goes out of their way to accommodate you and are so easy to work with they’re almost like family.”

The Molnars also have donated more than 300 platelet products for patient care and are hopeful their dedication will inspire others to donate.

“I’ve tried to get people to donate but there’s always an excuse that it takes too much time. But if you can sit and watch a football game for two hours, you can donate blood,” Brenda Molnar said.

Matt Molar said that his arm may hurt a bit after donating, but it’s a far cry from what people who receive the platelets are going through.

“I look at it like it’s my contribution and it’s something that I have to give,” he said.

For more information on platelet donation, visit

Kelly Urban is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • District Deaths April 21, 2014

    April 20, 2014

  • Halfway house inmates can ease back into society

    Prison life can be a time warp.
    When inmates are locked away – for months, years, decades – society moves forward: Technology evolves, major events occur, pop culture changes. From a personal perspective, families and friends live their lives: weddings, funerals, graduations, births, retirements. All the while, criminals bide their time, existing in a regimented world of cement walls and metal bars.
    Almost all of them eventually rejoin society, though.

    April 19, 2014

  • Crime board took aim at house

    Johnstown’s unemployment rate is around 8 percent.
    One-third of the city’s population lives in poverty.
    Burglaries and assaults significantly increased between 2010 and 2012. There is a thriving illegal trade in heroin and prescription drugs.
    Given those conditions, it can be challenging for Johnstown Community Corrections Center residents to find jobs when living in the facility or to avoid falling back into a criminal lifestyle upon their release.

    April 19, 2014

  • Homicides linked to center

    Three homicides that took place in Johnstown last year involved either a suspect or victim who previously resided in the Community Corrections Center.
    Police Chief Craig Foust confirmed the name of one victim, who spent almost two months in the facility on Washington Street during 2007, a time period verified by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

    April 19, 2014

  • bachota Volunteers helping to spruce up community

    Walls and ceilings inside the Cambria County Library look clean and bright with fresh new coats of paint on them.
    The work was recently done by inmates from the Johnstown Community Corrections Center.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • alanna Hartzok targets income disparity

    Alanna Hartzok described herself as being a conservative progressive.
    The Franklin County resident said she is in favor of conserving environmental resources, education opportunities, Social Security and Medicare, while wanting to progressively address wealth inequality, health care and taxation.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Schools rise to leadership challenge

    Forest Hills and Cambria Heights high school students put the spirit of healthy competition toward a good cause and picked up some lessons in leadership along the way.

    April 19, 2014

  • KATEY LADIKA Student’s photos win awards

    A Forest Hills High School junior has captured several awards in a high school arts and writing contest that has identified greats such as Truman Capote and Andy Warhol.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Siehl JIM SIEHL | Music to my ears

    Seldom has $15 produced such a high level of entertainment as it did a few weeks ago when I found myself in the second row just left of center keeping back the tears once again during my third live performance of “Les Miserables.”

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Michele Bender Bye, bye, Easter birdies

    Animals fascinated my mom. Riding the train between Johnstown and Philly, she saw horses, pigs, sheep, cows … a Mattel See ’n Say of farm critters.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo


Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads