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Every pint counts - Frequent Kitsap blood donors give, and give some more
He started when he was about 16 years old and has never stopped. Although some cringe at the thought of donating blood, it’s become part of a routine for 62-year-old Leonard Newsom of East Bremerton.
“It’s important because not everyone can do it,” Newsom said. “At some point you may need it.”
Newsom is one of the top donors in Kitsap County at the Puget Sound Blood Center in Silverdale. The retired machinist has been living in Kitsap for 28 years and has donated about 380 units of blood. And, he’s in good company. There are three other residents who have donated 300 or more units at the Silverdale center. They do it because not only are they able to, but because there is a need for it. Puget Sound Blood Center supplies to hospitals in the Puget Sound region from Vancouver up north to Bellingham.
As a teenager living in the Bay Area of California, Newsom first donated because a friend was in a car wreck and needed a transfusion. At his local blood center, donations could be used for specific friends or family as long as it was a match, he said.
“Donate early and often — just like voting in Chicago,” Newsom said last week at the Silverdale center as he filled out paperwork to, yes, donate some more.
He has never been denied from donating nor has had trouble providing a sufficient amount — Puget Sound Blood Center draws one pint of whole blood or two pints of platelets at one time.
Blood is made up of several components including red cells, white cells, plasma and platelets. When a person donates whole blood, one pint, including all of the components, is drawn. Platelets are small pieces of the cell material in the blood that help in the clotting process and controls bleeding, said Michael Young, spokesman for the blood center. Donating platelets could take up to two hours because the process includes collecting the platelets while putting the rest of the blood components back into the body, he said.
The blood center has 11 donation facilities in Western Washington and on average receives 8,286 whole blood donations and 1,391 platelet donations a month. The Silverdale branch receives about 585 whole blood donations and 109 platelet donations per month.
As the top donor in the county, Monty Walker, 45, has contributed to Silverdale’s numbers. The East Bremerton resident has donated 500 units. David McCoy of Port Angeles and Jeff Hahto of Bainbridge Island have each donated 300 units and no one else has donated more than 300 units, Young said.
“I’m just blessed with good health and good veins so it’s easy,” Walker of East Bremerton said last week. And although some say vegetarians do not get adequate nutrients, Walker hasn’t eaten meat or seafood since he was 16 years old.
Walker said he first donated as a student at Olympic High School as a way to get out of class. He added that at one point he lived in Seattle and his girlfriend at the time lived next to a blood donation center. Being an atheist, he didn’t attend church services with her but donated blood instead.
Now Walker donates not as a way to get out of doing something, but because he wants to and because it can ease somebody’s suffering. Those in need of platelet transfusions include burn victims and people going into cardiac surgery or having an organ transplant. Walker is scheduled for his next platelet donation next week.
Newsom and Walker both donate at the Silverdale center but there are mobile blood drives frequently throughout the county as well.
Like Walker, Jen Hadaway, 23, began her donor-career as a high school student wanting to get out of class, but now recognizes the benefits — aside from free cookies and juice — of providing for others.
From North Carolina, Hadaway moved to Bremerton three weeks ago and attended a blood drive at the Norm Dicks Center Monday. She donates because being a universal donor — her O negative blood type can be used by all eight blood types — can help a lot of people. The military police officer with the National Guard plans on donating every eight weeks, which is how often people are eligible to give blood to allow the body to replace the donated blood cells.
“If you don’t want to do it, you don’t want to do it,” Hadaway said, mentioning that many of her friends and family do not donate because they are scared of needles. “I’m not going to drag you here.”
The blood center is always in need of O negative blood, Young said, adding that it is especially beneficial for patients with severe injuries who do not have time to get their blood type tested. On Monday, he said the center was low on its B negative and AB negative supplies — they were both stocked at two-day supplies. An operational inventory is a four-day supply, he said. The supply changes daily and could be “back to normal” in a day, he added.
Whether they are regular donors or first-timers, all donations make a difference. That’s what Catherine Bennett of Bremerton realized. The 23-year-old said she never considered donating because she has always been scared of needles.
“I was scared, but I thought, ‘I’m helping at least three people today so, why not?’” Bennett said after donating at the drive Monday. Her brother donated and she convinced her father to join in for moral support as well.
“I’m still scared of needles but I’ll definitely donate again,” Bennett said. “The tetanus shot was much worse.”
Puget Sound Blood Center
Silverdale Donor Center
3230 NW Randall Way, Suite 101
Upcoming blood drives
March 22: Central Kitsap High School
March 23: West Sound Tech
March 24: Kitsap Mental Health Services
March 30: Bremerton Ferry Dock