Macedonia resident Doris Wolfe has been giving part of herself to help others every 56 days, since the 1970s. After so many decades, one pint at a time, her blood donations have added up to 20 gallons, a milestone she marked June 29, when she topped off with one final bag.
"Started when I got out of high school and my boss said 'Why don't you go give blood?' It was kind of a dare," she said, explaining she was working in a clerical position at St. Luke's Hospital in Cleveland at the time. "I've been doing it ever since and over the years ... I do it for various reasons. I've had family and friends who have died of cancer and I do it in their memory. I'm hoping that I can help somebody along the way."
Donors can give blood every 56 days -- a requirement to allow their bodies to recover. The average person has about 8 pints of blood in their system. Many people report they feel weak after donating blood, and donors are given a snack or some juice and asked to relax for a few minutes after donating to make sure they suffer no ill effects.
Wolfe said she feels great after giving blood.
"Some people get sick, but I get more energy," she said. "They say don't do heavy lifting, or gardening, but I am really weird -- I feel better."
Wolfe said that she had grown to know some of the phlebotomists who draw blood over the years, but notes that in recent years, the attendants and volunteers have changed and become unfamiliar.
"Compared to years gone by, it's not the same. But I just figure I'm here for a purpose, and it sounds kind of corny, when I do donate my blood I say a prayer that it helps somebody and it heals them.
"I just say, 'Oh God, work through my blood to heal whoever receives this," she said. "I thought, we're physically, mentally and spiritually involved in this world. We can pass from one person to another, so I just pray to God that it heals someone."
Being a regular donor means keeping track of different bloodmobile donations, as not all blood drives take place every 56 days at the same location. Wolfe said the Red Cross in years past used to contact donors to notify them of blood drive locations, and to notify donors when they reach milestones, "but that's kind of fallen by the wayside."
A recent merging of donor databases has made it more difficult to track donors, including donors such as Wolfe who give many gallons of blood, said Christina Peters, external communications director for the Northern Ohio and Western Lake Erie Blood Services Regions.
"We sometimes have to reach out to our national database to find out where someone is if they want to find out how many pints they have donated," Peters said. "We definitely have our very committed donors who give every 56 days and those are those people who reach those milestones. Those are normally people who started out in high school, or right after high school and give every 56 days."
She said the Red Cross depends on committed donors such as Wolfe, but would like to encourage donors even if they do not give at such a level.
"We need everyone to give, and we always ask people if you can give once or twice a year, that would be great," Peters said.
She added the need for blood donations increases at certain times of year, but most noticably around the holidays, including Independence Day, when many people are on vacation, companies are closed for a long weekend and people's minds are on picnics and barbecues.
The American Red Cross urges those who have never given blood before -- as well as those who haven't given recently -- to make an appointment to give blood or platelets now and help sustain a sufficient community blood supply this summer.
While the need for blood is constant during the summer months, the Red Cross experiences a drastic decline in new donors. Nationwide, about one-third fewer new donors came out to give last summer than during the rest of the year. Additionally, many schools where blood drives are held are not in session.
While about 38 percent of the population is eligible to give blood, less than 10 percent of those eligible actually do. The blood donation process takes about an hour with the actual donation only taking about 10 minutes.
To download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to make an appointment or for more information.
Eric Marotta: 330-541-9433