Every day, the Robertson Blood Center collects blood to help save the lives of ill or injured service members and their dependents worldwide. Every week, units of blood are shipped to Afghanistan to ensure those in combat operations come home to their loved ones.
However, that isn’t the only place donated blood is shipped. Some units are shipped right down the road to Fort Hood’s Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center. Some of those products are donated by the very people who work at the facility — two of which were the top donors last year.
Staff Sgt. Patience Waycaster, a resident from Cedar Falls, Iowa, and mom of two, makes time every 56 days to donate her pint of O-positive blood, despite her busy days of being the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of Darnall’s hospital education. Waycaster has served as a combat medic since 2006 and knows the importance of her blood donation and the impact it makes on the battlefield.
“Giving is a part of my personality,” Waycaster said. “It is something simple and easy that I can do. It’s a part of being selfless. I know the blood I donate to the Robertson Blood Center goes to soldiers, and I like that.”
Waycaster does more than just donate blood. She oversees the scheduling of the classrooms in the hospital and works to ensure that just about every 56 days the Robertson Blood Center mobile collection team sets up an opportunity for the staff of the hospital to break away from providing health care to saving lives. Waycaster started donating in high school.
She was surprised to hear that she had donated six times last year and was honored to be a guest at the Jan. 31 donor recognition ceremony. Waycaster said she didn’t count how many times she donated whole blood; instead she made her donations count by giving every time she could.
The top platelet donor from 2012 donated an impressive 20 times. Maj. Thomas Nessler III, originally from South Carolina, served for 5½ years in the Army, was discharged honorably, and then went to college.
His blood donations started in college at the United States Military Academy. Nessler completed medical school and schedules his platelet donations around his night shifts as a physician in Darnall’s emergency department.
He has not always been able to donate blood due to various travel restrictions but now that he is eligible, he makes it a point to come in whenever he can.
“I am a healthy, young guy. I have good blood and there are those that need it.” Nessler said. “I can make it in and tell everyone to try to make it in (to donate). It’s a good thing to do.”
Platelet donations can take a bit of time, anywhere from one to three hours; but Neesler takes full advantage of his donation time catching up with work and emails or studying.
The extra time he uses to do those things also have come with an added benefit — friendship.
A wonderful friendship has grown between himself and one of Robertson Blood Center’s platelet technicians, Ruth Hill, due to the time spent together to save lives.
“I like to check in on Mrs. Ruth. I like to make sure she is doing OK and having a good day,” Nessler said.
“I will miss Nessler when he leaves. He always comes to donate, even when he is tired from working. He donates all the time,” Hill said.
Nessler works the night shift at Darnall, from 10:30 p.m. to 8 a.m., has breakfast, and is ready to donate by 9 a.m. with Hill like clockwork.
Both Waycaster and Nessler will be moving later this year. Waycaster is headed to Fort Sam Houston, and Nessler will find out in May where the Army will take him.