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Decades of Blood Donation Shows the Impact an Act of Kindness Can Have

Originally published on the American Red Cross Cascades Region blog. 

Dennis Thompson and daughter Holly Sackett. Photo by Derek Reed/American Red Cross.

By lying on his back, savoring some quiet moments for two hours every other week, California resident Dennis Thompson has helped as many as 1,200 people in dire need.

His daughter, Holly Sackett, has followed his lead, helping as many as 24 people, while taking peaceful “mommy breaks.”

There’s no secret to how they do this.

They donate blood. Lots of it.

With excitement and cheerfulness in the air, it was in Forest Grove, Oregon, Holly’s hometown, on April 7, 2021, that 67-year-old Dennis reached a milestone that’s taken decades to accomplish – donating his 50th gallon of blood.

Holly shared in the celebration by reaching her one gallon mark.

To put these staggering statistics into perspective, each blood donation is about a pint. With eight pints to a gallon, that’s 400 donations for Thompson and eight for Sacket during their lifetimes.

What does that look like? Think of a grocery bag holding two gallons of milk. These donations would fill more than 25 grocery bags!

Thompson knew he wanted to make this donation special, driving 700 miles to share this moment with his daughter, so the two would earn their gallon donations “milestones” together.

“I thought about surprising her, but then decided it might not be the right kind of surprise,” said Thompson, while hugging his daughter. They smiled as Jennifer Reid, Red Cross team supervisor, awarded them with pins commemorating their cumulative donations.

Thompson recalled the reason he began donating twenty years ago.

“There was a blood drive at our church for someone who needed blood.” He clarified, “At that time, you could give and give credit to the person who needed a transfusion.”

Painting a picture of that day, he said, “We got to sit and watch TV! That was cool! So, I could go give blood, and get 2.5 hours of peace and quiet!”

With decades of experience and to make sure his gift of life is as good as possible, Thompson doses himself daily with a glass of “Green Sludge,” a concoction of kombucha, kale, berries, and flaxseed.

“No one else will touch it!” said Sackett with a laugh.

But, his dietary regime has paid off. Plasma clarity is an indicator of diet. Fatty foods can lead to a cloudy color, while low-fat, plant-based foods create clearer plasma. “I want it to be as good as possible,” said Thompson.

Then he burst into a laugh, and exclaimed, “The most important thing is, this is the gift of life!”

He emphasized the importance of this gift with a riddle, “Google can’t sell it, and Intel can’t manufacture it – the only source is from you.”

That is exactly what Thompson intends to continue to do. “My goal is 100 gallons!”

Like her father, Sackett has her own motivation for donating blood.

“A friend was in the hospital and got seven transfusions. She wouldn’t be here, if she hadn’t had blood,” she said. “It means more knowing my friend’s life was saved! It has a face to it!”

Similarly, she is also goal-driven. “It’s on my list of 40 things to do by the time I turn 40 – give a gallon of blood.” To make this happen, she explained, “every chance I get I make an appointment to give whole blood.”

The duo hug, cementing this memory that will last a lifetime, and Sacket added, “We’re in this together! We give blood! It’s an easy way to help somebody.”

To make an appointment to donate blood or to learn more, go to www.redcrossblood.org.