DAYTON, Ohio – If you clock it to the exact minute, Wendell Clark may have cut the line a bit when he returned to the donor bed on March 26, the Saturday morning before Easter. Community Blood Center’s all-time leader in blood donations was coming off a two-year deferment mandated for certain cancer patients. He had circled March 26 on the calendar soon after his diagnosis, and he had waited long enough.
Wendell’s deferment was for two years after final prostate cancer treatment. His only treatment was surgery, and Saturday marked the two-year anniversary.
“This is Day One,” Wendell said as he settled once again into the familiar surroundings of the Dayton Donor Center’s apheresis section, a needle once again in his arm collecting platelets for his 609th lifetime blood donation. The time was shortly before 9 a.m. “I’m probably not actually eligible yet!” he said. “My surgery was around 11:30 a.m. and ended later than that.”
The March 26 date is all that matters, and for Wendell it’s as if a clock that measures one of his most valued purposes in life was finally ticking again. For the first time since his 608th donation on Jan. 27, 2014 he was once again an active blood donor.
Wendell had been CBC’s top active donor since 2010. He made his milestone 600th lifetime donation on Oct. 24, 2013 and a few weeks later became CBC’s “Top Donor of All Time” with his 602nd lifetime donation on Nov. 14, 2013.
His donation record became frozen in place in the winter of 2014 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
As CBC’s top donor, Wendell has appeared often in newspaper and TV news stories as an advocate for blood donations. He never hesitated to talk publicly about how the change in his health impacted his donating. It was his first thought when learned he had cancer.
“The prostate test came back positive, and the first thing that went through my mind was, I can’t donate,” he said.
He battled the illness extremely well and his recovery is complete. His routine over the years has been to donate on week days after his day shift at Neaton Auto Products Manufacturing in Eaton. He made a rare Saturday appointment because it was his first chance to begin his comeback. “I figured there shouldn’t be any problem donating today,” he said.
Instead, he got a surprise that nearly made his heart sink when he checked-in at the CBC front desk Saturday morning. “When I got here this morning somebody had written down that I was deferred for three years instead of two!” he said. “I said, ‘Really? It should be two.’ They said they’d go ahead and call someone to be sure but don’t worry.”
After that last small hurdle, Wendell was back to donating, finally able to fulfill a personal pledge. Before his diagnosis he commonly donated a full schedule of 24 platelet donations per year, plus several plasma donations. He hopes to quickly get back on the same schedule.
“I only missed 14 days of work for the surgery,” he said with pride. A two-year hiatus from blood donating is something he never expected. But it’s exactly the type of life challenge that so many patients face when they need blood. Few patients know Wendell’s name, or that “he’s back” to donating again. But what matters most is that Wendell has their back.