A man has donated 100 gallons of blood over the course of 36 years of giving. The South Florida man has given six gallons of blood every year since 1977, and last month reached the rare goal few donors ever do.
Harold Mendenhall of Riviera Beach, Fla. has donated over 400 times to reach his lofty and selfless goal beginning on July 7, 1977. Seven is one of the 84-year-old's lucky numbers, but that isn't the reason he first began giving precious platelets from his blood to those that need them.
Mendenhall's late wife, Frankie, was diagnosed with breast cancer that fateful year- the disease eventually took the registered nurse's life. After his wife's death he also lost two of his five children: the 47- and 53-year-old died of complications from disabilities. Now, he continues to give to honor all of them and celebrate his own health.
"For some reason, I'm still here and I'm grateful. That's one of the reasons I keep donating," he told The Palm Beach Post.
Mendenhall is well known at One Blood center in Lake Park, Fla., where he comes to donate often. However, he doesn't give purely blood, which would require him to wait 56 days in between donations; he gives platelets, which are more time-consuming to extract from blood.
Platelet donors give two pints of blood at a time, then the platelets are extracted in a process called apheresis that takes around two hours. Afterwards, the remaining fluid is transferred back to the donor, but the invaluable platelets go to patients with blood cancers like leukemia.
Mendenhall said it's his way of giving back when he has been given so much.
"Giving blood can only be done by a human being, so that's been my payback for my career and my good health and all the blessings l've had," he told The Post.
He also gets a little in return: One Blood staff takes his blood pressure and checks for West Nile virus, HIV and hepatits, which he says is "like getting a check-up every two weeks." It could be one of the reasons that at 86, he requires no medication and even manages to stay active.
"He has got to be the nicest, most generous person I know," Frankie Grover, who is in charge of the platelets division at the center, explained. "If we call him with a special need, he always comes in."