Patrick Lee, 67, has passed the practice of donating blood onto his children and grandchildren. “I wanted them to be comfortable with donating blood. And they’ve all been blood donors,” Lee said.
The process for donating blood for the American Red Cross is routine.
Fill out your health history and have a mini-physical to ensure your iron levels are high enough and your heartbeat is normal. Red Cross attendants fill several vials with blood for testing then scan the vials’ barcodes and punch your personal data into a handheld device. Then you’re ready to give.
It might be routine, but the system has changed over the years.
“They didn’t have those 50 years ago,” Patrick Lee said with a laugh as he donated another pint of blood Thursday afternoon at the First Christian Church in Centralia.
Lee’s 197th blood donation came 50 years to the day after he first donated at age 17 at MU in 1968. He has donated over 24 gallons of blood since.
Lee, of Ashland, doesn’t remember his first donation well. He remembered standing in line in the stairwell at the student union. Angel flight girls were there. That’s an honorary group that marches with ROTC Air Force cadets, Lee said.
“They had pretty girls who escorted you from your table to the canteen,” Lee said. “What guy doesn’t like being escorted by a pretty girl?”
Lee still has his original Red Cross card, although it says he lived in Hatch Hall, when he actually lived in Hudson.
Lee continued to donate throughout his time at MU. He recalled one donation where he raced a friend to see who could donate a pint fastest. His time was 4 minutes, 34 seconds.
“I don’t know whether that’s fast or slow or average or whatever,” Lee said. “It was just one of the stupid things you do when you’re a student.”
The average time of blood donation, according to the American Red Cross, is eight to 10 minutes.
Lee continued to donate after he graduated and into his adult life and has established some routines. He takes a sticker for the next donation the Red Cross gives him and puts it on his calendar. He timed this appointment specifically so he could donate on the anniversary of his first donation.
“When I was doing this when I was a young dad, I picked up extra snacks and I took them home for my little girls,” Lee said. His daughters would say that “Daddy went blooding” when he came back home.
“I wanted them to be comfortable with donating blood. And they’ve all been blood donors,” Lee said.
Lee has four daughters, two sons and 10 grandchildren, with two more on the way. His daughters, now mothers, have the occasional health issue, such as anemia, so they are unable to donate currently.
“But they grew up being comfortable with that and will probably return to being blood donors a little later in life,” Lee said. “So now I do that with my grandkids.”
Lee took home two packets of fruit snacks for two of his grandchildren, the ones he’ll see for Thanksgiving next week. He ate pretzels and raisins after his donation.
“I would love for someone who’s never given blood before to say: ‘I’m gonna give that a try,’” Lee said. “And perhaps someone who’s given blood and they’ve gotten away from doing it, they’ll come back and do it again. And at the very best, someone might make a habit of it, like I’ve made a habit of it.”
Lee admires those who donate blood despite side effects such as feeling faint while donating. He’s had no problems. He spoke about a man at his church who kept giving blood even though he got sick every time. Lee’s unsure whether he’d be so diligent if he faced those side effects.
Lee donated once at St. Joseph’s Catholic school in Jefferson City, which rang bells at the start and end of class. Lee said the high school students were dropping out of donating blood “like flies.”
“I was sitting at the canteen table, and one of those bells rung, and I said, ‘Do you know what those bells mean?’ and they said ‘No,’” Lee said. “I said, ‘They ring those every time someone dies after donating blood.’ And their faces!”
Lee said he often gets thanks for his donations from people: the daughter of friends with a special needs child who needs regular transfusions, for example, and a man who has needed two transfusions. The man told Lee that people like him are alive because of people like Lee.
“It is something that I can do that costs really nothing to me, other than time and a little discomfort,” Lee said. “I can contribute to saving someone else’s life.”