I asked Mike how he got started giving blood.
“Well, Big Chuck, I remember it like it was yesterday,” he told me. “I was living in Albany at the time, renting a room above an old Italian couple. They were a nice couple. One night I saw the old man being carried out on a stretcher and taken to Albany Medical Center for surgery. He had been hemorrhaging and it was apparent that he had lost quite a bit of blood. Well, in those days, when they used up the blood they had to make it up immediately. I felt sorry for the old guy so I decided to go ahead and give blood in his name. I don’t know why I ever did this,” Mike laughed. “I was just 19 years old and deathly afraid of needles!”
So how did that first engagement with the needle go?
“I was very surprised. It wasn’t bad at all, and almost immediately I lost my fear of needles,” he said.
Mike has been a familiar and welcome sight at Red Cross blood drives ever since. He is now a youthful 80 years young and he continues to watch his calendar for the next time he can give. Last week he donated his 396th pint of blood. While nobody really keeps the record of things like who has given the most blood nationwide, Mike will hit the 50 gallon mark in just a few more visits. Yes, I said 50 gallons!
“Then I can retire,” he chuckled.
The American Red Cross likes guys like Mike. It isn’t always easy to fill the blood quotas they set. In fact there were 50,000 fewer donations nationwide in June of 2013 than there were in June 2012. Around 1985, with the HIV/AIDS scare, blood donations dropped off. Today the Red Cross performs more than a dozen HIV tests on the more than 6 million units donated annually.