By: Martin Gagliano
“I believe that when you receive blessings in life then you really have to give something back,” said Craig Wilson, a platelet donor who has reached an incredible 100th-gallon milestone at the Oakland Blood Donation Center. “I’ve been blessed with good health, and this is my way to pay it forward. Even if I’m not getting anything out of this -well, I get a T-shirt sometimes- it doesn’t matter because I know I’m helping the community. That’s the point”.
Craig started donating blood in Chicago around 1978. “There was a need for blood donors and I decided to donate for the first time. I did it a couple of times in the year, but with not much awareness,” he remembers.
His days as a lifesaver continued when he moved to California in 1985 and became familiar with the Blood Donation Center in Oakland. Craig’s commitment increased during the AIDS epidemic, when FDA regulations requested, “there was a need of blood donors who were eligible” to prevent HIV infection through blood transfusions. “When I found out, I opened my schedule to more donations.”
The switch from being a blood to a platelet donor shifted when a Red Cross staff member explained to Craig how donating platelets could help people fighting cancer or immune system diseases. Platelets do that and more: without a platelet transfusion, cancer patients face life-threatening bleeding because platelets help the blood to clot. Platelets also help people survive major surgeries or serious injuries. Platelet transfusions go a long way to help keep these patients going and live more active, healthy lives.
After donating 100 gallons of platelets, Craig has overcome an important fear: “When I first started I wasn’t that thrilled about needles. Then I learned that needles are not the enemy. They are just something they need to use to take your blood. I used to turn my head away, avoiding looking at the needle, but then I became interested, ask a bunch of questions to the collection staff, and now I’m not afraid anymore. I am not thrilled to see my own blood, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t freeze me from acting.”
For Craig, it’s all about helping others. “I do this even when I don’t know the people I’m helping. Sometimes I’ve received a thank you note from someone after a donation, but most of the time I just donate for all those in need,” he said.
He chooses to make his donations at the Oakland Blood Donation Center because of the pleasing environment and kind staff who have become like family to him over time. He also has a reason that makes him enjoy his visits even more: “I like to bring a different pair of shoes every time I came to donate. I have almost 60 pairs and I rotate them each appointment. It’s funny to see them here saying “Oh! Its Craig! What kind of shoes is he wearing today?” The Red Cross celebrates Craig’s milestone to help save lives. We are proud to have donors like him, with a true humanitarian spirit. Congratulations Craig!