Al Whitney first donated blood in 1965, and thought he could do much better than providing his one pint every 56 days.
That’s when the Avon Lake, Ohio, resident began hosting blood drives — sometimes up to 56 a year — for more than 40 years. The work was all volunteer on the side of his job in manufacturing.
“Wherever I am, whenever I meet somebody, I say, ‘How are you doing?’ Then I ask if they donate blood,” Whitney said while hooked up to a platelet donation machine at Fort Hood’s Robertson Blood Center on Monday. It was his 718th time to donate platelets.
It’s all about raising awareness for the 75-year-old, so he began a campaign through his nonprofit, Platelets Across America, to donate platelets in all 50 states. He reached that goal in Wyoming in August, so now he is donating at every military installation offering platelet donation.
Walter Reed Army Medical Center was his first stop, and Fort Hood his second.
“We’re so happy he found us and he wanted to come here,” said 2nd Lt. Sarah Matthews, acting director of the blood center. “It’s certainly one way to get the word out that we need more platelet donors.”
Platelet donation is different than whole blood donation. It takes slightly longer and can be done every two weeks, said Catherine Tharpe, donor recruiter at Robertson. Platelets, a blood component essential for clotting, are most often given to long-term cancer patients, burn victims and amputees.
Platelets also only stay good for five days, so a constant flow of donations is required.
“We are constantly needing new donors,” Tharpe said. “Because of the life of a military installation, we’ll have a steady supply of donors, then they will (move).”
For junior soldiers, if they donate platelets six times, they receive a certificate of achievement, which is worth five promotion points.
“The main reason people don’t donate blood is because nobody ever asked them,” Whitney said. “We have to ask people.”
If people tell him they already donate, he encourages them to bring a friend next time.
“When you donate, you are giving somebody another birthday,” Whitney said. “I know that somebody is going home from the hospital, and that’s all that matters.”
For more information on Whitney and Platelets Across America, go to www.plateletsacrossamerica.com.