Blood platelet donor shoots for all 50 states

Ohio man uses his stops to urge others to give the blood particles tied to clotting.


Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 11:48 p.m.

Some people set their sights on visiting all 50 states. Al Whitney is going one step further.

Whitney's goal is to donate blood platelets, which promote blood clotting, all across America. In the fall of 2007, Whitney established Platelets Across America and donates platelets, speaking to groups about the need for more donors.

"All through high school, I wouldn't talk to my shadow," said Whitney. "That's how introverted I was. But I became passionate about donating blood and have been able to overcome it."

Whitney, 71, lives in Ohio with his wife of 47 years, Nancy.

"She thinks I'm crazy," he says, "but she supports me."

Whitney was in Gainesville Wednesday, donating platelets at the LifeSouth West Donor Center on Newberry Road and talking to those at the center about the value of more people donating platelets.

Whitney began donating blood in 1965, and soon thereafter began organizing local blood drives.

He has donated platelets in 34 states so far, and Florida was actually the 12th state in which he donated. Whitney said he'll next stop to donate in Oregon and Delaware.

The process of donating platelets is simple for the donor: Sit in a chair for about two hours and a machine does the work.

The machine separates plasma, platelets and red blood cells with a spinning motion. The red blood cells go back into the donor's body, and the plasma and platelets go into a plastic bag.

The platelets are stored at room temperature and are only good for about five days.

Platelets can be donated once every two weeks, said Gary Kirkland, LifeSouth Community Blood Centers corporate writer.

Platelets are used by leukemia and cancer patients, and anyone undergoing chemotherapy.

"When you've needed blood or a family member has needed blood, donating becomes very personal. You understand the importance," Kirkland said.

Although no one from Whitney's family has needed blood, his devotion to donation has grown stronger over the years.

After Whitney reaches his goal of donating platelets in all 50 states, he said he plans on donating at centers where he hasn't been, and to keep spreading the word about the impact donating platelets and blood can make. "I've learned that the most fantastic people in the word donate and work at blood banks. They are a dedicated group," Whitney said.

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