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One pint at a time – rising to the top 1% of blood donors in the U.S.

A super donor of 40 years shares his story.

Macon Sizemore donating blood

By James Shea

Every two seconds in the United States, someone needs blood: Kids battling cancer, accident victims, new moms facing complicated childbirths, and many more. Yet only 3% of people in the U.S. give blood.

One of them is Macon Sizemore, director of rehabilitation services at VCU Health. He avoided donating blood growing up, always using sports as an excuse. He didn’t want to risk feeling depleted and hurting his performance. When his career running track in high school and college was over, he decided to donate when his church held a blood drive.

“I said, ‘Well, I’ve run out of personal excuses for not becoming a regular donor. Why not start now? I can’t find a better place to do it,’” Sizemore said. “I got to share my gifts in the church.”

200 donations over 40 years and counting

That moment changed the direction of Sizemore’s life and has helped an untold number of people. Out of 25 million donors registered with the Red Cross, Sizemore is among the elite 1% of donors who have given red cells 200 or more times. In Sizemore’s case, this took a 40-year commitment.

“Macon’s lifelong commitment to blood donation is truly an inspiration to all of us,” said Jonathan McNamara, American Red Cross regional communications director. “At the American Red Cross, we are only able to deliver lifesaving blood to hospitals because donors like Macon answer the call to give the gift of life. We hope his dedication to this important cause leads to more people in our community making blood donation a more regular part of their lives.”

Critical need for blood, especially during summer

Blood donation is a vital part of the health care system, said Susan D. Roseff, M.D., professor and vice chair of the Department of Pathology at VCU Health. She said one donation can save multiple lives. Donors are potentially helping neighbors, co-workers and family members and ensuring an adequate blood supply.

The need is particularly great in the summer, when donations are down 18%-20%. Many blood drives being are held at schools, and regular donors become busy with summer activities and vacations. At the same time, the need for blood remains constant with increased roadway and other travel-related accidents, particularly during high-travel holiday weekends.

“People who get stem cell transplants, organ transplants, suffer trauma, have diseases like sickle cell disease, and those who need certain medical procedures might need a transfusion of one or all components of blood products in order to survive,” Roseff said.

Over the lpast three years, the pandemic has also created a strain on the blood supply and more donors are needed. “The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the worst blood shortages on record,” Roseff said. “Lockdowns reduced the number of opportunities for our blood supplier, the American Red Cross, to collect blood products. In addition, due to fear of catching the virus, people were reluctant to go to the American Red Cross locations to donate.”

A calling and lifelong commitment

Sizemore donates every 60 days, which is the required time between donations. It takes time for the body to recover after donating blood, but Sizemore says he has never had any major side effects from donating blood.

“If you are healthy enough to give blood, that should be a blessing that you need to share with others,” Sizemore said. “It’s easy, doesn’t take long. And once you do it, you will not regret it.”

Having worked his entire career in health care, regular blood donation has become a part of his life. Sizemore was recently given a pin for 30 years of service at VCU.

“I dedicated my life to the health care profession,” Sizemore said. “My early clinical training was in physical therapy, so I was always aware of the need for blood donation, whether it be for chronic therapy or cancer or traumatic surgery. I’ve been blessed with good health for several decades and not everybody can give. I’ve always worked in hospitals so there are always blood drives handy. I’ve always tried to take advantage of the opportunity and share my good blessings and health with others.”

How to become a blood donor

Make an appointment directly with the Red Cross by searching for a blood drive in your area.

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