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The best way to spend 1,125 hours watching Netflix or movies
blood donor
U.S. Air Force courtesy photo by Kemberly Groue Rose Weatherly, 81st Diagnostic and Therapeutics Squadron registered nurse apheresis supervisor, transfers blood into tubes for testing during am apheresis platelet donor session given by Airman 1st Class Thomas Humphrey, 338th Training Squadron student. Platelets may be required daily by leukemia patients who do not produce enough for themselves.

It was not my first rodeo with a phlebotomist.

I had donated whole blood perhaps 50 or so times over the course of 20 years.

Then there were occasional blood draws for physicals.

But this was different.

I was donating platelets.

I had been asked after my last whole blood donation — and it literally was my last — if I was interested in being a platelet donor.

I do not recall the pitch the Delta Blood Bank staffer  made or even if there was one.

I simply said “sure”.

So, there I was in early 2005 at the Modesto donation center.

The phlebotomist explained that for their first draw, all donors at that time were required to use the two-arm method — one to take your blood out and one to rerun it minus the platelets.

After being hooked up and just before she started the process with the apheresis machine, she again stressed that if there was anything I needed — including having my nose scratched — to just ask.

I rarely scratch my nose.

But throughout the next two hours that the process took I repeatedly had to fight the urge to ask to have my nose scratched.

The power of suggestion indeed works.

That was 374 donations  ago.

Since then, I’ve only had four aborted donations. That happens when the needle has been inadvertently misplaced that creates blood infiltration to surrounding tissue.

That is less than a 1 percent error factor over 375 donations which is pretty darn good.

I’m not going to lie. Those needle miscues hurt a bit and caused a bit of temporary bruising. But compared to the pain other people are going through that need the platelets so they can live it’s not even an annoyance.

Yes, it takes time.

I  walk into the Red Cross donor center every other Saturday at 1 p.m. in Stockton and leave 3 or so hours later. That’s 1,125 hours or 46.8 days of my life well spent even for a number of years when I worked six days a week and Saturday was my only day off.

But that’s not the number I focus on.

Every platelet donation can help between two and three people. Many times, I am able to do a double donation in one sitting.

At the same time, every second or third donation in a 12-month period  — you can’t exceed 24 — they can also draw out and keep plasma.

Even on the low side,  2½ people are helped each time I spend a couple of hours passing the time watching Netflix or movies on CDs at the Stockton Red Cross donation center on March Lane.

 I used to take the time to read using one arm donation that takes 30 or minutes longer. But turning the pages was a slight adventure and I couldn’t take notes when the urge struck me.

Besides, I can’t think of a better way to spend two hours in front of a TV screen.

The odds are over the years between platelets and plasma in a very small way I’ve helped 1,000 or so people who may be fighting everything from cancer, who need their platelet count boosted before surgery, and for those who have lost a lot of blood after an accident.

 Platelets, if you haven’t already figured it out, are key to preventing and stopping bleeding.

I bring all of this up not because I want a gold star or a pat on the back.

It gives me another opportunity to make a pitch to get people to consider donating blood. Whole blood donations don’t take as long as donating platelets and you can’t do it as often.

The blood you donate provides accident and trauma victims life giving blood. It makes it possible for surgeries. It aids burn victims and fight cancer. It helps provide ongoing lifesaving transfusions for those with chronic illnesses — both young and old.

Platelets are a bit different than whole blood transfusions that an impressive number of people do every 56 days.

It takes five whole blood donations to secure the same amount of components they can with a platelet donation. But unlike whole blood that has a shelf life of 42 days platelets are only good for five days. They are used to treat all sorts of cancer, leukemia, and certain disease in infants as well as are needed for organ transplants.

I have never missed a scheduled platelet appointment since I started in 2005 after years of simply donating whole blood.

A unit of platelets is used every 15 second in this country.

I have no idea who has received my platelets nor does it matter.

But I am driven by the fact that setting aside just a small amount of my time can in a small way make a difference for someone else that I’ve never met.

A lot of people are weary of simply donating whole blood.

Their weariness comes from the needle stick.

I realize everyone reacts a bit differently but rarely does that bother me.

I’m not going to lie. Even though every phlebotomist I encounter contends I have great veins — which means they are easy to locate and are well supported by muscular and connective  tissues — on rare occasion they miss the mark.

But then again they are dealing with scar tissue from 374 draws over 18 years.

Besides, whatever slight discomfort I may incur pales compared to what a cancer victim is going through.

You can donate whole blood every 56 days here in Manteca at the Red Cross mobile donation center Mondays from noon to 6 p.m. when it is parked outside the Manteca Veterans Center on Moffat Boulevard.

You can make appointments on the Red Cross website for the Stockton and Modesto donation centers or the Manteca mobile collection site.

Unlike a platelet donation where they hook you up to a machine, the process when you donate whole blood takes right around an hour from the time you arrive and when you’re done.

Keep in mind there is no way to produce artificial blood.

Saving lives when it involves blood is all on us.

The 374 donations I’ve made since 2005 is the equivalent of 46 gallons of blood.

Given a gallon of blood weighs 8.3 pounds, that’s 381.8 pounds.

That’s more than twice my 178 pounds.

Little gestures such as donating whole blood every 56 days allows all of us help lessen the burden of others — strangers and friends alike — that find themselves suddenly at the mercy of the forces of disease or mayhem.

What’s a couple of hours of our time if that is all that is needed for us to  making a difference between someone dying and being able to live  longer?


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at