It’s a tradition for the Women of the Moose to host their annual Community Blood Center (CBC) blood drive at the Greenville lodge before St. Patrick’s Day. It means breaking out the shamrock decorations and handing out ham salad sandwiches and bright green t-shirts. But the Tuesday, March 12 drive continued another tradition: and unofficial gathering of the “Platelet Gossipers” club.
Linda Clemens, a founding member of the club, made her milestone 200th lifetime donation Tuesday. It’s a goal that lately had been challenging to reach. “I haven’t been able to give the last couple of times because I’ve been working seven days,” she said. Her job at Greenville Technology Incorporated (GTI) has been on a frenzied pace as the company cranks out auto parts for the Honda plant in Marysville and the new plant in Anderson, IN.
The day before the blood drive marked the two-year anniversary of the devastating tsunami and earthquake in Japan. The disruption forced shut-downs at GTI, and it’s good to see companies like Honda bouncing back. Though the work load has forced Linda to cancel a few apheresis appointments, the Luck of the Irish was with her at the Moose Lodge blood drive.
“I’ve been donating for 30 years,” she said. “I started out giving whole blood, then they asked about giving platelets and I said ‘Sure, why not!’ When I started it was a much longer process, it took like three hours. But these machines are so fast! I have a high platelet count, so I give a double (two units of platelets) every time.”
That’s exactly how donation 200 went for Linda. The milestone was a chance to reminisce about her early days as an automated donor, dating back to 1997. Soon Linda and fellow apheresis donors like Nancy Lutz formed a team for the CBC LifeLeaders club. “I’m part of a ladies group that has donated together since about 25 years ago,” she said. “We called ourselves the ‘Platelet Gossipers.’ We even had our own t-shirt!”
The word “gossip” must have caused Nancy Lutz’s ears to burn, because she suddenly appeared at the drive and traded stories with Linda about the club. Soon Nancy was relaxing under the fuzzy blanket she brings with her to blood drives, ready to make her 215th lifetime donation.
If anything besides work may cause Linda to miss her next donation, it would be an accurate prediction from the Old Farmer’s Almanac for one more March snowfall. “I won’t drive in snow,” she said. “I spent 14 years running rescue (with the Tri-Village Volunteer Rescue Squad) and saw too many people who didn’t have the sense to stay home in the snow. They can wait a day without going out to get a loaf of bread.”
However, it was a fall evening with dry roads that is the most vivid in her memory. “The rescue squad was called when my son had an accident, and I rolled on the call,” she said. “I didn’t know it was him until I got there, though I remembered that he had gone to a football game that way. He had borrowed my car, and oh yes, it was totaled. He kept saying, ‘Mom, I’m sorry about the car.’ Someone had pulled out in front of him and there wasn’t anything else he could do. He was OK and that’s all that mattered.”
She sees the fortune in being able to help her son with her rescue squad service, without his need of her service as a blood donor. But her 200 donations over the years have gone to many who were not so fortunate, and that truth adds significance to her milestone. She was one of 10 registered automated donors at the drive that gave 13 platelet units. The drive also registered 118 whole blood donors and collected 105 units.
Over in the Donor Café, blood drive coordinator Meredith Burkett and fellow Women of the Moose blood drive volunteer Barbara Potter folded the bright green, “Share the Luck, Share the Love, Give Blood” t-shirts and described the Café menu. “We have homemade soup, homemade ham salad and chicken salad sandwiches, and of course homemade cookies!” said Meredith.
Volunteer Elizabeth Mendenhall, prepared for St. Paddy’s Day with her electric shamrock necklace, had a special treat waiting for Linda. “She collared me once and said, ‘This is my favorite, so where’s my grape pie?’” Elizabeth described her scratch recipe made with Concord grapes, and yes she did bake pies for the blood drive. “She’s a good neighbor, and I’ve made her several!” she said.
Also in the Café, Moose Lodge member Mike Dohme of Greenville chatted with CBC Darke Co. Rep. Dana Puterbaugh after his 164th lifetime donation. “I support this drive quite a bit, but I’m also a long-time blood donor,” Mike said. “I believe in it. I’ve never had to use it myself, but you never know.”