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Bob’s Story: How this 77 Gallon Platelet Donor Tracks His Impact

Korin Roehm April 19, 2023

Do you ever wonder what happens to your blood or platelet donation? For a long time, you had no idea what happened to your donation. You just knew that it was going to help someone in need. Now, thanks to new technology, that’s all changing!

There are two new programs that help donors understand their direct impact. The My OneBlood Journey program, sends donors an email donors when their donation is being transported to a hospital

Through the Message My Donor program, donors can even receive an anonymous message from the patient who received their lifesaving donation. Although not every patient will choose to send a message, all you have to do is donate to potentially receive one of these heartfelt messages.

With the emails from My OneBlood Journey, Bob Prather, a 77-gallon platelet donor has started tracking his platelet donations as they are transported to hospitals. He shared his picture with fellow platelet donors in the OneBlood Platelet Donors Facebook Page to inspire other platelet donors.

Recently we talked with Bob about his commitment to donating platelets.  

How did you get started donating platelets?

I was deathly afraid of needles as a young guy and so when I became 16 my doctor told me to start giving blood. I started giving at the American Red Cross and from there I got a job working at the local hospital (back when you didn’t need a college degree to do that) and that’s when the nurses asked me if I wanted to try donating platelets. The ER doctor who was my supervisor at the time saw my arms and said “perfect”.

So, I went to this room at the hospital and they had two nurses and a huge machine, they would hook me up on my left arm and they ran my blood through the “Blood sifter”, or that’s what I called it, and one nurse would be looking over the cylinder and would have a scoop to scoop the platelets off the top and then the blood would be left over.  The other nurse would be watching me to make sure I was ok.  They would switch back and forth about every 15 minutes. Then the blood would go back into my other arm after going through a blood warmer, it took about three to four hours back then.

Have you always donated platelets?

Well, when I went to college in Troy, AL the local blood bank didn’t have an apheresis machine, so I gave blood.

After college, I moved to Tallahassee and started donating blood again, when I asked if they had an Apheresis machine the phlebotomist was surprised because that is something that wasn’t very common then.  There was only one machine and it was in the hospital so they used to have to walk me through the parking lot to the hospital to donate. No radios, no TV just me and a nurse.

Is there anything that inspires you to continue giving?

I don’t really have any specific story, donating platelets has just become a part of my life. I go every two weeks. I’ve never had any major health issues, but I have had some surgeries that precluded me from donating. Once I was out for a month and I really missed giving, so when I got back to donating I always made sure I had my next appointment set up. It’s just part of what I do.

alt textWhat made you start tracking your donations?

When I first started receiving the emails, I wasn’t doing anything with them. So, I asked Chad a friend of mine who works in a print shop at The Florida Bar to print me off a map of Florida, so then when I started receiving the emails I just started sticking pins. Sometimes with platelets, you get 2 or 3 emails of places where (platelets) they’re going. I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now.

You mentioned that you were afraid of needles, what advice would you give to someone who is scared to donate, or afraid to switch over to platelets?

There’s no big difference in the needles, it’s just the time. But if you’re afraid of needles, go try it once or twice because it does get better. Even if you have a bad experience, just keep trying because there’s a comfort level you need to get to trust someone sticking a needle in your arm. It took me a few times to get it together, and now it’s just what I do.

This year, our theme is “A Better Tomorrow”, what would a better tomorrow look like for you?

It would be nice to see the blood banks full. When I’m donating, I will see one person donating and then they will get flooded with 5 or 6 people. It would be nice to see them consistently full of people giving blood products.  You never know that one day you might need a pint of blood or platelets.

It wasn’t that long ago that you haven’t ever heard of someone donating platelets, now we see they are always asking for platelets and a lot of people have started making the effort. And you can see why, Cancer and medical emergencies create a huge need for platelet and blood products. My daughter Annette is a Radiation Oncology nurse at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital Cancer Center and she and her nurse friends see the need for it every day. She comes home and tells me about it and that’s what keeps me donating.

Together, we can help fulfill Bob's vision of A Better Tomorrow! Visit our donate now page to find a donor center or Big Red Bus near you and save lives!

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Korin Roehm

Sharing diverse, remarkable, inspiring real-life stories is what the I am OneBlood movement is all about. Help spread the word about the important role blood donations hold in our community.

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