AVON LAKE — Al Whitney has spent the last 44 years helping save lives through blood and platelet donation, and he’s determined to have the whole country join him.
Whitney, an Avon Lake native, started giving blood in 1965. Soon after, he began organizing regular blood drives at his church, Lake Shore United Methodist.
When he discovered how important platelet donation was to cancer patients, trauma victims and surgical patients he began regularly donating his platelets as well.
“People ask me why do I do it,” Whitney said. “Walk through a cancer ward and then come back and ask me why I do it.”
Platelets are the clotting agents of the blood, which help control bleeding. Cancer patients have their normal blood system destroyed by chemotherapy and donated platelets help support them through the healing process.
The 70-year-old retired factory worker is so passionate about raising awareness of the need for platelet donation that he created “Platelets Across America.”
Whitney’s goal is to donate platelets in donor centers in all 50 states.
“I was down in Lexington, Ky.,” he said, “when another young lady there was getting ready to donate blood. I explained platelets to her … and she turned around and went back … and told them she wanted to give platelets, and she’s been doing it ever since.”
Platelet donation is a 90-minute procedure in which trained technicians painlessly connect the donor to a Trima machine that separates out the platelets from the other components of the blood and then returns the blood to the donor’s body. Platelets can be donated every two weeks, up to 24 times per year. Donors must be at least 17 years of age and in good health.
Certain medical conditions and medications can make someone ineligible to donate, as well as having traveled to certain countries.
Whitney credits Life Share Community Blood Services, the local agency collecting blood in Lorain County, with getting him started donating. They have donor locations in Elyria, Lorain, Avon Lake and Wellington. Interested donors can visit Life Share’s Web site at www.Lifesharedonor.org to make an appointment or to locate a blood drive near them.
“Less than 5 percent of eligible blood donors actually give,” Whitney said. “We use two pints of donated blood every second in this country and over 63 million pints per year. The main reason people don’t donate is because no one asks.”
Contact Tracie Dakters at 329-7155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TO LEARN MORE
Avon Lake resident Al Whitney intends to visit every state in the U.S. to donate platelets and encourages his fellow citizens to do the same. He has donated in 29 states to date for a total of 636 units of platelets and five gallons of blood. To follow his progress, visit www.PlateletsAcrossAmerica.com.