Friday’s blood drive honors Bob Thomas

PAT FRIDGEN
This photo was taken Feb. 12 while Bob Thomas was receiving an infusion at Hershey Medical Center. Providing support during the procedure was his grandson Aiden Brown.

A special blood drive scheduled for Friday in Greencastle has proven to Bob Thomas that many things come full circle.

The Franklin County commissioner was diagnosed in January with aplastic anemia. A regular blood donor as a young man, and with renewed vigor the last decade, Thomas has now found himself on the other end of the pint-sized bag of blood products many times.

He has been treated at Hershey Medical Center all winter, undergoing blood tests twice a week, and receiving red blood cells or platelets on a regular basis. Spring brought good news.

“I’m very high in a positive way right now,” he said Monday. “Yesterday marks two weeks I have not needed platelets. That is a very good sign. My body appears to be generating its own platelets again.”

If tests continue to show good results, he will be able to cut back on trips to Hershey.

He emphasized that the blood donated by others kept him stable until his own blood began repairing itself, and he supports the blood drive April 2 at the Rescue Hose Company fire station multi-purpose room, 842 S. Washington St.

The blood drive will run from 1 to 7 p.m.

“Many people have called or emailed me offering help,” Thomas said. “I invite and encourage all my friends who want to help to donate blood. Your donation will help to save the lives of up to three people.”

The drive was coordinated by Brian and Cheryl Luger, RHC members, sparked by Thomas’ situation. Though a resident of Chambersburg, he is a life member of the RHC.

Cheryl Luger heard Thomas talking about his condition on the radio, and suggested a blood drive, based on memories of her nephew, who required transfusions as a toddler and died at age 7.

Brian Luger cleared the idea with the RHC executive board, Thomas, and the ARC.

He hopes the Greencastle drive will result in the donation of 80 units.

“The big push is that people become aware of the need and then become lifelong donors,” he said.

The need for blood

The American Red Cross says that while just five percent of Americans donate blood each year, nearly 40 percent meet the eligibility requirements.

A person must be at least 17 years old, weigh 110 pounds or more, and be in good health. During the screening, the person will register; receive a temperature, blood pressure, pulse and red cell count check; health history review; donate and enjoy refreshments afterwards. The process takes about an hour and 15 minutes.

ARC regional communications manager Marianne Spampinato said local donations will be sent to Chambersburg, Waynesboro and Washington County hospitals, as well as others in the 100-county region.

“Donors are needed every day to replenish products transfused daily in the hospitals we serve,” she said. “We need to collect nearly 1,000 units of blood each weekday to meet this need.”

She added that an ongoing need is for RH negative blood, including O negative, the universal blood type.

Thomas pointed out the many cases in which people need blood - those suffering multiple trauma, leukemia, bone marrow transplantation, open heart surgery, abdominal aortic aneurysms, liver and heart transplants, orthopedic surgery, sickle cell disease or premature birth.

“This blood drive is not about me,” he added. “It’s about other people I’ve seen during my treatment.”

Many times while at Hershey, he has encountered other Franklin County residents undergoing transfusions or receiving units of blood products.

Keeping up

Thomas has been able to fulfill most of his commissioner duties while under medical care. He avoids “large, uncontrolled crowds” and for some public meetings may be “the last one in and the first one out,” avoiding personal interaction.

“People know that goes against my grain,” he said, but they understand his need to minimize contact with germs. Employees  with minor illnesses also keep their distance.

If Thomas is at Hershey, he participates in some meetings over the phone and the computer also keeps him in touch.