Thursday, October 18, 2007

Blood Donor Joins Elite 400 Club

Oak View resident Dwayne McCullough receives his 400-unit plaque from JoAmy Rice, a platelet nurse at United Blood Services.

By Sondra Murphy
Oak View resident Dwayne McCullough has been donating blood regularly since 1976. On Oct. 11, he gave his 400th unit and was honored by United Blood Services staff in Ventura with cake and a commemorative plaque.
McCullough began giving blood while working at 3M and said his main motivation at the time was getting a long break from the office. Having the uncommon blood type of AB positive made McCullough popular with blood bank staff, who initially requested that he be on call to donate. Eventual advancements in technology changed the way blood is processed, increasing McCullough’s donation frequency.
Since the early ‘80s, McCullough has traveled to UBS in Ventura to give blood. The technology has changed since he first started his donations. “The machines have improved and the time frame needed to collect it has gotten faster. The machines are capable of separating out whatever they need from the blood,” said McCullough. Donors go back to computer terminals, where they may watch a movie, satellite television or use high-speed Internet during the appointment. When finished, donors are offered refreshments.
“I was on call for eight years or so and would get called once a year, maybe,” said McCullough. “Then they started the pheresis program, where they take the platelets.”
According UBS platelet nurse Judith Youngquist, platelet pheresis is a procedure in which the blood is filtered, platelets are separated and the remaining fluids are returned to the donor. “Platelets are cell fragments necessary for blood to clot. They only live for five days and must be kept at room temperature,” said Youngquist. She said it takes eight to nine platelet donors to collect one full unit. The platelets cannot be used after five days have passed, compared to 42 days for a unit of blood.
There are various types of pheresis techniques used to separate white blood cells, blood platelets and plasma. Youngquist, herself a platelet donator, said platelets are used for cancer, leukemia and surgery patients. People can donate up to three platelet units at a time, depending on their platelet count. Unlike iron levels in the blood, there is nothing a person can do to increase blood platelets.
“Dwayne is perfect for platelet donation. He gives up a split unit at one time,” Youngquist said, meaning two units. “Dwayne is fantastic.” She explained that, due to processing, platelets from any blood type may be used for anyone who needs them.
“A donation takes two, two-and-a-half hours, so these donors are very dedicated and we honor these donors,” said Youngquist. Platelet donations may be made up to 24 times a year, so McCullough gives blood about every two weeks. If he is sick or has been injured, such as when he broke his leg four years ago, McCullough must reschedule his donations.
Each appointment includes a questionnaire period, checking his vital signs and testing his blood for iron levels. He is a painting contractor, which gives him the flexibility needed for such a commitment. He has no special diet. “Most donors, I think, are more conscious of taking care of themselves,” said McCullough.
After so many years of giving blood, McCullough said that his arms have developed a little scar tissue, but not enough to prevent his donations. “It’s something that, once you get in the habit of it, you just do it,” he said, noting that most people don’t really think about donating blood until there is a catastrophe or someone they know needs it. “It’s one of those easy ways of contributing to the community,” said McCullough. “It’s such a good feeling when you walk out. It’s really lifesaving.”
United Blood Services is Ventura County’s only local blood supplier serving all Ventura County hospitals. “We are very thankful for people like Dwayne McCullough who is a truly dedicated donor,” said Holly Nash, donor recruitment manager for United Blood Services. “We wouldn’t be able to provide the level of service to Ventura County hospitals that we do without donors like Mr. McCullough.”
More information about donating with United Blood Services is available by calling (800) 715-3699, 654-1600, or going online to

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