By ERIN MILLER
Stephens Media Hawaii
Monday afternoon, Jim Lovell walked into Solid Rock Ministries to donate blood, a fairly routine habit for the Big Isle resident.
The end result was something a little more special.
Lovell, 51, was there to donate his 100th pint of blood, becoming what blood banks refer to as a “century donor.” He got his start giving blood years ago, when a friend’s daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor. At the time, people could donate blood in another person’s name and offset the cost of any donated blood the recipient needed for surgery, for example.
“It was done to help someone, which is what donating blood is all about,” Lovell said.
After that initial experience, Lovell just kept at it. He encourages friends to come along — he even brought a first-time donor to a blood drive the day he became a “super donor” by giving his 56th pint. He keeps a bumper sticker on his car reminding people about the need for blood donations.
Blood screening showed he was CMV negative, meaning he hasn’t been exposed to cytomegalovirus, a relatively minor viral infection that can be dangerous for people with compromised or immature immune systems. Lovell said it’s somewhat rare for an adult to test CMV negative, but because he is, his blood can be transfused to infants, including prematurely born ones, who haven’t yet been exposed to the virus.
Lovell donates every other month, which is as often as the Blood Bank of Hawaii runs blood drives in West Hawaii. This month’s drive continues from 7 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. today at The Church of Latter-day Saints, Kona Hawaii Stake cultural hall, 75-230 Kalani St. Call (800) 372-9966 or visit bbh.org to schedule an appointment or check on drive information.
Blood Bank of Hawaii Field Representative Sheri Yanagida said the blood bank is focusing this year and next on increasing its pool of donors, especially in Kona.
She praised Lovell and other long-term donors for not only providing blood for the community but being ambassadors for blood donation in general.
“Reaching the century mark is no easy feat,” she said. “He’s really had to keep up with five or six blood donations a year. Loyal donors really are our lifeblood.”
Such long-term donors also make a commitment to the process. Yanagida said she knows how easy it is for one thing to change in a regular blood donor’s schedule and suddenly that person is no longer able to make appointments to give blood.
“There’s people with multiple jobs, growing families or they’re retirees,” she added.
“That’s where the challenge comes from in Kona.”
The Blood Bank of Hawaii doesn’t have permanent staff in West Hawaii, but comes here every other month for two to three days to do the blood drives. The next blood drive will be in November, with a day of appointments in Waimea as well as a few days in Kona, Yanagida said.
Increasing the number of blood donors increases the likelihood that the blood bank will be able to find more donors with rare blood types. Yanagida said one area of focus, for West Hawaii, is more donors with Rh negative blood, something that is in short supply in Hawaii.
Email Erin Miller at emiller@westhawaiitoday .com.