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Kevin Blake began working at Dana-Farber as an electrician in 1976. Within six months, he was inspired to donate platelets at the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center after doing work in a pediatric clinic. Thirty-two years later, he's still here and still donating platelets. On Sept. 19, he marked his 250th donation.
Platelets are the clotting agents of blood essential to the treatment of individuals fighting cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, patients undergoing chemotherapy, and those who suffer blood loss during surgery. The primary source of platelets for Dana-Farber patients is from volunteer donors like Blake.
Blake, who was feted with a special breakfast and gift by the Kraft Center staff in recognition of his milestone, is now challenging his colleagues, especially his co-workers in Facilities, to give platelet donation a try. "If everyone would just do it once then we'd have what we need to help patients," he says.
Staff represent about 5 percent of donors to the Kraft Center, which each year aims to collect about 8,000 units of platelets. Platelets have a short shelf life only five days from when they are collected, which makes the need for donors constant.
Blair Owren, supervisor of donor recruitment at the Kraft Center, knows that employees sometimes hesitate to donate because they are worried about the time away from their jobs. She says donating platelets takes about 90 minutes, and that it's a great opportunity for staff to catch up on reading or work on a laptop.
Dana-Farber policy permits staff to give during working hours with their supervisor's approval. An individual can safely give platelets once every two weeks.
"Since I've worked here, I've had four supervisors, and I explain to them what platelet donation is and they don't have a problem with me taking time out of the day to give," says Blake.
For a long time, Blake didn't say much to his co-workers about donating it was just something he did. He recalled an annual brunch held years ago to recognize donors that was scheduled for a Sunday in Boston. "I live an hour outside of the city, and my wife and I didn't feel like going into Boston on a weekend, so we skipped it."
Little did Blake know that he was being honored at the brunch for his 150th platelet donation. Shortly after, during a Facilities department meeting, Blake was surprised with a visit from then Chief Operating Officer Jim Conway, who had a plaque for him. "I guess the word was out," says Blake.
And now, 100 donations later, the word is out again. Blake hopes he serves as an inspiration for other employees to give it a try. As for himself, he'll continue donating as long as he works at Dana-Farber probably even longer.
"Every once in a while a patient will come through the donor area and thank you," he says. "That just feels really good."
For more information about donating platelets, call 617-632-3206.