Locals Bleed For Others

NEW KNOXVILLE — Richard Egbert has been saving people’s lives after car crashes, surgeries and severe wounds for more than 20 years.

He’s not an EMT, doctor or a nurse. He’s a blood donor. On Friday, Egbert was one donation away from having given 19 gallons of blood to the American Red Cross, meaning that people all over this part of the state are walking around with Egbert’s blood connecting them to the donor without even knowing it.

“It’s the thing to do,” said Egbert, who comes every eight weeks to the New Knoxville American Legion blood drive unless he’s sick or on vacation.

It takes about a year and four months to donate one gallon if a person donates every eight weeks.

American Red Cross representative Shawn Gavis said the organization isn’t particularly low on blood right now, though they do need O and A negative blood.

The group was set up with special equipment, however, that allowed them to do double donations. The first donor, Rick Felty, was scheduled for a double donation. Red Cross worker Ashley Stevenson, attending Felty, said that the double donation would be of red blood cells only.

The double donation requires only one needle, she said, then the blood travels into a centrifuge, where it spins, throwing the heavier red cells against a wall.

“Like the jeans in your washer,” she said. “The red cells are heavier.”

Once the red cells are separated and collected, plasma and saline go back to the donor to keep them hydrated and able to donate again.

The advantage of the red cell collection, she said, was that patients in surgeries and car accidents are often given the red cells, and the preference of the hospital is to have the donation from one donor.

Gavis said after collection the blood will go back to Fort Wayne, then to a Cleveland lab where it is tested for safety, after which it is distributed to area hospitals.

“They usually try to keep blood in the area where it’s donated,” Gavis said.