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Four Washington Co. residents have given at least 25 gallons of blood

December 30, 2009|By JANET HEIM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- It's a gift that can be given every 56 days, yet often goes untapped.

Four Washington County residents have reached - and in some cases exceeded - the milestone of donating 25 gallons of blood and agreed to talk about what motivated them to do so.

Each story is different, but there are some similarities.

It takes eight pints -- one pint is the standard amount donated at one time -- to equal a gallon, 200 pints to equal 25 gallons. It would take more than 30 1/2 years to donate 25 gallons if giving blood every 56 days.

One pint of blood can save up to three lives, according to the American Red Cross' Web site, www.redcross.org.

The blood donors said it takes about 15 minutes to donate a pint of blood once the paperwork is completed.

They all started donating blood before HIV/AIDS was on the map. The donors remember the days when you could make an appointment, instead of first come, first served, often waiting in line, as now is generally the practice for blood drives.

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American Red Cross promotional item giveaways -- incentives to draw more donors to blood drives -- also are fairly new, they said.

Charles Frazier, 67, of Elizabeth Court in Hagerstown, has given 26 documented gallons of blood, but the total is higher because there were some donations that weren't recorded years ago, he said.

Frazier, who usually donated at St. John's Episcopal Church on Prospect Street or at Hagerstown City Hall, initially saw it as a way to refresh his blood.

"Get rid of some of this old, get some new," Frazier said.

He said there was only one time he can remember when he was turned away and that was because his blood was low in iron.

When Lester "Gus" Moreland, 90, of Hagerstown, went to work for C&P Telephone Co. in 1946, employees were encouraged to give blood, he said. He not only donated himself, but eventually oversaw the blood drives at the phone company and persuaded other employees to participate.

Employees were supposed to be given time out of their workday to donate blood, but when he learned there was a foreman who would not permit it, Moreland made sure the foreman complied.

Moreland donated 28 1/2 gallons himself, but has not been able to give blood since having heart bypass surgery in 1998. If a co-worker at C&P needed blood because of an upcoming surgery or accident, Moreland spearheaded the blood drive.

He required 19 pints of blood when he had surgery for bladder cancer.

Over the years, Larry Middleton, 88, and David Keener, 61, have been regular donors at Maugansville Ruritan blood drives, as well as other locations.

"Every time they said I could, I did," said Middleton, who lives at the Village at Robinwood. "I'm just hoping it's there if someone needs it."

Middleton reached the 30-gallon mark, but like Moreland, was unable to donate after heart surgery in 1998. He said when he started giving blood, he had to get his parents' permission, indicating he probably was younger than 18.

Keener, of Maugansville, was 24 when he started giving blood. His total is "25 gallons and a couple of pints," he said.

Both Keener and Middleton belong to families of blood donors. Keener's father also had given 25 gallons of blood and his brother and sister-in-law have given close to 15 gallons each, he said.

Middleton said his granddaughter gives regularly because she has a rare blood type.

Stephen Steinmetz of Hagerstown currently is the active donor with the most donations in the county at 29 gallons. He chose not to be interviewed for this story.

A Washington County woman also has donated at least 25 gallons of blood, but a current address and phone number were unavailable for her.

Due to HIPAA regulations, donors' names are not public information without the donor's consent, said Theresa Elwood of the Washington County chapter of the American Red Cross.

This quartet offer words of encouragement for would-be blood donors.

"Give. It doesn't hurt," Keener said.

"No, it doesn't," Middleton added.

"You'll feel a little sting ... that's all," Frazier said.

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