Linda Quarberg has the title of Hilo’s top blood donor for providing strangers with 197 pints of her A-positive blood during the span of a decade.
“That’s a lot of holes in my arm,” she joked.
Blood Bank of Hawaii honored the 68-year-old Volcano resident at its annual luncheon Friday at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center. The event featured an array of speakers, including 2013 Miss Hawaii Crystal Lee.
This wasn’t the first time Quarberg was honored as a top donor. A few pints of blood and a couple of years ago, she took home the title of top donor for East Hawaii and, at the time, former Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim was the guest speaker. While introducing Quarberg in a speech, he was forced to stop in his tracks when he started to analyze just how much blood she had donated throughout the years.
“He started to make his speech and tried calculating how much blood that was that I donated and totally forgot his speech,” she said with a laugh.
Michelle Burchfiel, spokeswoman for BBH, said the event is featured each year as part of January’s Blood Donor Month, and is a way for the organization to thank its numerous volunteers and donors for their selfless dedication.
“Volunteers give their time, which takes about an hour, and they’re spending it to help someone they don’t even know, but they’re doing it because they know they’re going to save a life,” she said.
While Quarberg has the highest number in Hilo, Jay Tomokiyo has the top spot in Kona for having donated 222 times. In 2013, donors on the Big Island contributed to 7 percent of the 56,000 pints of blood and platelets collected for Hawaii’s patients.
Burchfiel said their efforts do not go unnoticed.
“We need 200 people to donate blood a day or else we wouldn’t be able to meet the needs of Hawaii patients and save lives,” she said.
Quarberg started donating in 1975 after learning a former co-worker’s wife was in need following complications from childbirth.
“I went twice to make up for what she needed. I started going more once I realized it doesn’t hurt that bad,” she said.
Since then, Quarberg said she tries to donate six times a year. She’s hoping to reach 200 pints by the end of summer, and is encouraging first-time blood donors to not let fear get in the way of making a difference.
“Just listen to what they tell you and know that it’s going to hurt for a minute, but you’re helping a lot of people. They say each donation can affect three lives,” she said.
BBH is a nonprofit organization that, according to its website, provides blood to 17 civilian hospitals. For more information, visit www.bbh.org.
Email Megan Moseley at firstname.lastname@example.org.