May 20, 2008
Albany -- The staff at the Red Cross donor site at 1515 Dawson Road keeps looking out the windows for a special person to arrive. Sometimes he brings them something special that he cooked, while he gives part of himself to people who don't know him.
Terrence Tobin looks forward to Saturdays. "I try and come every other week. It's a fun time," says Terrence.
That depends on how you define fun. He believes fun involves helping others anonymously, people he won't see or ever know about.
"That was a good stick," says Terrance when Lena Thomas of the Red Cross gently pushed a small needle into his left arm.
He's a dependable about coming to the donation center as blood running through a living human body.
"I've come every other Saturday for a year or so," says Terrance, Marine Aid to the Commanding General at the Marine Corps Logistics Command here.
"Platelets are the clotting part of the blood," says Lena as she checks a plastic bag that slowly fills with Terrance's bodily donation.
Without the gooey, sticky, bodily lifeguards, a person could die from a small cut. "You could bleed to death," says Lena as she looks closely at the see-through plastic bag that holds the freshly added platelets.
"One of my sisters had breast cancer, went through chemotherapy," says Terrance.
In the shadows of her treatments, the powerful drugs killed many of her platelets, but were replaced by faithful donors like Terrance.
"His platelets go to people in need here in southwest Georgia, and if for some reason we don't need the platelets here, then other districts get at shot at them," says Andrea Tatum, Red Cross's donor recruiter.
They don't go to waste, but the Red Cross needs more platelet donors.
Why a shortage? "People fear they could get a disease when their own blood gets removed, processed in a machine and returned to them. They fear unclean machines could harbor diseases that would somehow get added to the returning blood," says Andrea.
Chances of that happening are quite low, almost impossible. They replace parts that handle and process the blood in the separating machine with every donor. The sterile parts go in minutes before the donor sits down.
"It's what I can do to help any type of cancer or burn victims. It's just a small thing," says Terrance who donates about two hours of his time for the process.
Small to him, huge to those who need the platelets only good for five days and that's it. Their shelf life is quite short and that's why the Red Cross needs more faithful donors like Terrence.
Besides his dependability, Terrence rates as a biological superman. "His body generates enough platelets where we can give a patient a double dose of platelets," says Terrence.
His body makes twice the number, naturally. "It's just genetics. There's no way to increase or decrease platelets," says Lena, obviously happy the bag holds twice as many.
Terrence watches TV as the miracle machine removes his platelets and immediately returns the rest of his blood to his body.
"It doesn't hurt," says Terrance who will go about his usual Saturday activities after having a snack at the Red Cross donation center.
He helps people live that he doesn't know, bound to the belief that giving of oneself doesn't hurt at all.