Janesville man helps Red Cross meet demand for blood donations

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Shelly Birkelo
Wednesday, August 21, 2013

JANESVILLE—Pat McDonald might have helped save up to 600 lives through his blood donations of the past 47 years.

According to Laurie Nehring, communications manager for the American Red Cross, a single person can help save up to three lives with one donation. On Monday, McDonald, 65, Janesville, made his 198th blood donation. He is fast approaching the 25-gallon donation mark.

"That's tremendous," Nehring said.

The recent donation also ranks McDonald among the top 10 blood donors in the American Red Cross Badger-Hawkeye Region that serves Wisconsin, Upper Michigan, Eastern Iowa and parts of Illinois, she said.

"Donors like Patrick are very hard to find and huge supporters," Nehring said. "The amount of blood products he's donated is amazing."

McDonald said giving blood is simply something he always expected to do once he became old enough.

"When I turned 18, shortly after graduating from high school, I gave (blood) for the first time that summer," he said.

Since then McDonald has rarely missed a blood drive.

"Every time I could make it, which was most of the time, I would give at a bloodmobile where I happened to be at the time," he said, noting bloodmobile visits were traditionally four times a year but were sometimes as often as every two months.

McDonald said he is grateful God gave him the good health that enables him to give blood.

"There's no artificial blood. The only way people who need blood can get it is if there are donors." he said. "So I think it's important to help those who need it."

Nehring agreed:

"Summer is a really difficult time, when people are busy vacationing and traveling and our donations go down," she said. "We need regular blood donors to bridge the gap. Not enough people donate on a regular basis, so we appreciate those who do."

The American Red Cross, which supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood, needs donations to ensure an adequate supply is available for patients year-round, she said.

About 500 donors are needed each day just to meet that demand in the Badger-Hawkeye Region, Nehring said.

Although there is a always a need for all blood types, right now there is an urgent need for platelet donations and especially O-negative, A-negative and B-negative blood types, she said.

Nationwide, donations through the Red Cross were down about 10 percent in June, resulting in about 50,000 fewer donations than expected. In July, an appeal for donations increased giving by 15 percent.

"Now we're trying to bridge the gap," Nehring said. "We've seen just a small amount improve but still have an urgent need, so we are hoping donors come out."

In other words, more people like McDonald— and his family. McDonald's mother also was a frequent donor and his older brother, Michael, of Madison also has donated about 34 gallons of blood.

"So, he in a sense, has been an inspiration," Pat McDonald said.

 McDonald plans to keep giving blood as long as long as his health allows it.

"It's quick, it's easy, and you feel good about doing it," he said.

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