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MU alumnus donates 160th pint of blood

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 | 4:55 p.m. CDT; updated 8:31 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Patrick Lee donates blood at the Hearnes Center on Wednesday. Lee said that his next goal is to donate again 56 days from now, which is the next time that he will be allowed to donate based on Red Cross regulations. He is hoping to donate another 20 gallons in his lifetime.

COLUMBIA — Patrick Lee donated blood for the first time as a 17-year-old freshman at MU. He was younger than the required age, but he can't remember if he lied or if the workers simply didn't ask.

"I'd like to think I didn't lie," he said. "You know, when you're 17 ... you know."

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He was a little apprehensive that first time. Now, he's calm as he gets into the chair. But he keeps wondering if the time is going to come when he gets sick or faints.

The argument could be made that he would know by now.

Lee, 60, donated his 160th pint of blood Wednesday at MU's Homecoming Blood Drive, which began Monday and ends Thursday.

That adds up to 20 gallons of blood that Lee has donated since 1968. He said he will continue to donate as long as his health allows and hopes to give 20 gallons more.

Lee always gives from his right arm and never watches the phlebotomist stick him with the needle. There's a bit of a sting, he said, and then you feel nothing.

Carmen Trenco, an American Red Cross collection staff member, was Lee's phlebotomist Wednesday, though others gathered around to chat with him as he donated. He complimented Trenco for sparing him even the slightest sting.

Lee's blood is A positive, the second most common blood type in the U.S., according to the Red Cross. The most common is O positive. Donors that are A positive can give red blood cells to A and AB blood recipients, said Dan Fox, a Red Cross communications associate.

After the donation process ended, Lee received a pin commemorating his 20th gallon from Todd Wagner, a director of Red Cross donor recruitment. 

Lee also received a sticker proclaiming, "I gave blood today," which he placed proudly on his shirt. He mused aloud that it wasn't his usual sticker, and minutes later, Julie Pipes, Red Cross donor recruitment manager, came over with his favorite. It says: "Be nice to me, I gave blood today."

"Oh, this is what I was talking about!" he said, adding it to an increasingly crowded shirtfront.

Lee, who graduated from MU in 1972, is from Ashland. He plays the part of Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Boone and William Clark in motivational presentations at meetings and conventions. But he finds time to give blood almost every 56 days, the time a person must wait between donations so the body can recoup the loss, Fox said.

Lee is eligible to donate again on Nov. 28; he's already marked the date in his datebook with yet another sticker.

Donors don't know who receives their blood. But Lee likes it that way.

"For 160 times and blood going so many different directions, there could be hundreds of people (who have received it)," Lee said. "There would be a crowd."

The Red Cross estimates that donating one pint of blood can save up to three lives. For Lee's contribution, that adds up to 480 people over the last 43 years.

Taking a page from their father's book, some of Lee's children have donated blood. His four adult daughters have, and his twin 14-year-old sons have gone with him to become familiar with the process before they are old enough to give.

Lee wants to encourage people to get in the habit of giving blood, whether it's once a year or every 56 days.

"There is nothing magic about my blood," he said. "But when you put it in someone, it becomes heroic."


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