Retired Electrician Gets Charge From Donating Blood Platelets
Published June 2010
Al Whitney, 72, pulled a black suitcase through the halls of UC Health University Hospital and across the UC Academic Health Center campus on April 20.
He wore a suit jacket, the left lapel adorned with blood donation pins from across the U.S. like medals of honor, and a friendly smile. Both accessories gave a glimpse into the kind person Whitney strives to be.
The suitcase told more.
"I bring these puzzles and games along to each donation site to leave on the tables so that donors have something to occupy their time after giving blood,” he says, pointing to a stapled stack of word games and a wooden peg-type puzzle game.
"We don’t want anyone leaving too soon and feeling ill.”
In addition, he pulls out a sample of a teddy bear that he’s given to recipients of his platelet donations and informational materials and CDs with ideas of ways to increase donations to share with blood bank managers.
Whitney, a retired electrician from Avon Lake, Ohio, has many good ideas concerning ways to encourage blood and platelet donation, and his latest one is impacting lives across the nation.
In 2007, after an extensive track record of donating blood and platelets and managing hundreds of local blood drives in his hometown, Whitney created "Platelets Across America” and took his mission to the next level.
He’s currently traveling to all 50 states to donate platelets, raise awareness of the need for donors and educate people about the difference that blood and platelet donation can make in the lives of hundreds of patients.
This passion started in 1965 when Whitney donated his first pint of blood.
"I walked out of the facility saying, ‘I can do more than this,’” he says.
With that simple thought, Whitney contacted the LifeShare Blood Center in Elyria, Ohio, and asked about coordinating and running a blood drive every eight weeks at his local church.
"In the late ’60s or early ’70s I switched to donating platelets,” he says.
"In 1985 I said to myself, ‘I can do more than this,’ and decided to run a blood drive every Saturday and every eight weeks on a Monday night.”
Whitney says that after he learned about the benefits platelets offered to burn victims, cancer patients and transplant recipients, he couldn’t say no.
"If you walk through a cancer ward, you won’t have to ask me why platelet donations are so important,” he says.
Whitney continued to hold blood drives—56 a year—and donate platelets until he decided to retire in 2000.
As a way to tie it all together, he decided to set a goal of collecting 2,000 units of blood.
However, Whitney says shyly, they didn’t match the goal exactly.
"We collected 2,069 units,” he says with an ornery grin.
"What a way to go out!”
Whitney continued donating platelets on a regular basis, and in the fall of 2007, he had another epiphany.
"I once again told myself, ‘I can do more than this,’” he says. "That’s when I came up with the idea of donating platelets in every state, becoming a spokesperson to raise awareness of the need for whole blood and platelets.”
In the three years since, Whitney has donated over 650 units of platelets and five gallons of whole blood in 35 of the 50 states and continues to spread his message.
During his April trip to Cincinnati, although he’s donated in Ohio many times before, he
gave platelets at the downtown Hoxworth donation center in the Tri-State Building, 432 Walnut St., to help raise awareness in Greater Cincinnati.
"Donating whole blood and platelets is such a simple task,” he says.
"You’re donating your time six hours a year to help 18 people. Not only do you affect the lives of the patients, but you also affect their families and friends—you’re affecting hundreds of people with one small gift.
Simply put: Take the time to donate blood.
"If I can do it, you can do it.”
Donate Platelets, Blood This Summer
Blood supplies at Hoxworth Blood Center tend to be low during the summer months due to an increase of vacations (smaller donor pool), a decrease of students on campus and an increased use in supplies at hospitals due to injury during summertime activities.
To help meet this need, Hoxworth Blood Center is requesting blood donations.
To schedule an appointments at a neighborhood donation center, call (513) 451-0910 or (800) 830-1091, or visit hoxworth.org. n