During Red Cross Month this March, the American Red Cross celebrates individuals who make our mission possible, including generous blood and platelet donors who help ensure hospital patients can receive the medical care they need. Every 15 seconds someone with cancer, chronic disease or traumatic injuries needs platelets. Like all blood products, platelets cannot be manufactured and can only come from generous donors like Al Whitney.
Have you ever set a goal and not only reached it, but doubled your results? Al Whitney knows that feeling; he has donated platelets – the part of blood that forms clots – in all 50 U.S. states, not just once, but twice! He has even donated in Canada and Australia!
“When people ask me why I do this, I just tell them, ‘You go and walk through a cancer ward and then come back and ask me why I do it’,” he said. “You’re not donating blood. You’re donating life.”
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1.9 million new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed just this year.
The spry 84-year-old began his lifesaving career in 1965, when he saw a big Red Cross sign in downtown Cleveland, Ohio that said, “Donate blood.” So, he did. When he walked out, he was inspired. “Al, you can do more,” he thought.
From there he started organizing regular blood drives in his hometown of Avon Lake, while continuing to donate blood himself, every 56 days.
Eventually he switched to donating platelets, which are always in short supply because they have a shelf life of just five days.
In the fall of 2007, Al challenged himself to donate platelets in every state. It took him five years to reach that goal. “Al, you can do more,” he thought again. So, he set out to double the feat. He hit his second target in March 2021, when he made a donation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“Sometimes people will tell me, ‘I don’t like needles’,” Al said. “I tell them, ‘I know how you feel. But think of that little boy in the cancer ward. Do you think he likes needles?’”
In total, Al has given more than 1,000 units of blood and platelets, showing the immense impact just one person can have who commits to donating regularly. Red Cross Month is the perfect time to try giving blood for the first time, or to make a commitment to giving regularly to help patients.
When you donate platelets, your blood goes into a specialized machine where the platelets are separated from the rest of your blood. The platelets go into a bag and the rest of your blood is returned to you. Typically, the body replaces its platelets in 24-36 hours. The FDA allows platelet donors to give up to 24 times a year. Learn more about donating platelets through the American Red Cross.
DONOR HEALTH INFORMATION:
The Red Cross applauds the generosity of millions of individuals who donate blood and platelets and believes in its responsibility to give back to those who roll up a sleeve. That’s why the Red Cross provides important health information through the donation process including an individual’s blood pressure reading, hemoglobin level and pulse rate. Empowering our blood donors with meaningful health information is critical to maintaining donor personal well-being as well as the broader care of our communities."