Lufkin, TX (KTRE) - Imagine for a moment the size of a gallon of milk. Now, think about what 18 gallons look like and you begin to understand the significance of Jerry Gaines' contribution.
Belinda Murphy, a consultant for Carter Blood Care Center in Lufkin says, "Someone who at the age of 78 and still be donating and to have donated 18 gallons over his lifetime, that's what donating is all about."
Eighteen gallons of blood, you heard right. As of Thursday visit, this retired Marine has donated eighteen gallons of blood since he moved to Angelina County in 1987. That's not counting all the blood he donated during his active military service. He says money, thirty dollars a pint, was an incentive to get him started donating blood. "And, then I found out it helps a lot of folks," said Gaines.
Gaines recalls his first time to donate blood. He says he was in Dallas, had made his donation and had stepped outside to 105 degree heat when he nearly passed out. He says he's learned to eat first and pace himself since then.
Always looking for an opportunity to put a smile on your face, Gaines jokes about his gifts of life. "My theory is it's like an old car that uses oil, you never change oil and I don't have to worry about my blood because I keep making new blood all the time."
Over the years, the donation process has been streamlined. For most donors it now takes only about 15 minutes from registration to finish, including eight minutes for drawing the blood. "A one time donation saves three lives, but it's the return donors that keep blood in the bank, so that we can save lives at all times," Murphy said.
Gaines has become a walking endorsement for the Blood Center, "I think everyone should donate because it helps a lot of people. People that are past 50 they don't give because, hell, I'm pushing 80 and it's pushing back, but you still donate because your body is still making a lot of blood."
Photos were snapped and there was applause from the staff as the final drops of blood flowed into the unit, marking Gaines' 18th gallon. So, what will he do next? Gaines laughs and says, "Wait for 18.1."
A tee shirt, balloons and a cake accentuated the milestone.