Thursday July 19, 2018
Many of us donate blood and consider it to be a worthwhile and meaningful thing to do. Often, we are spurred into action by a local blood drive or a news article touting the urgent need. But then, there are those among us who somehow manage to not only keep a regular donation appointment, but do so with such commitment and regularity, that the amount of blood they have donated can be difficult to comprehend. Rich Pearl is one of those remarkable people. Recently, Pearl, a South Burlington resident since 1988, reached the donation milestone of 150 gallons of blood. As of today, Pearl’s current donation total is just under 155 units. A kind and, needless to say, generous individual, Pearl would be the last person to draw attention to this achievement. He sees his twice monthly visits to the local American Red Cross (ARC) Blood Donation Center as unexceptional. “It’s the way I give,” remarks Pearl, adding, “Everyone should be able to give in some way.”
Mario Lopez, site supervisor of the ARC Burlington Donor Center, said, “Reaching the milestone of giving up towards 150 gallons is something that happens few and far between. It is really, more so than anything, a testament to Rich’s heart and his commitment to helping patients who depend on the blood supply to survive.”
Anyone who knows Pearl would readily describe him as a perennial funny man; he never met a joke or pun he didn’t memorize and share at will. Lopez, who Pearl fondly calls “Super-Mario,” agrees. “Rich is quite the rock star here at the Burlington donor center! He is quite the jokester, no doubt! Always making us laugh, he truly appreciates the staff and the work they do.”
In addition, Lopez shares the other constant truth about Pearl, his humanity. “I must spill the beans though on this one and say, Rich has a heart of gold. He is extremely thoughtful and skilled at engaging with practically just about anyone. His love of life is quite evident, which makes every experience with him an enjoyable one.”
140 of the 150 gallons of blood Pearl donated has been through a process called apheresis, which is a special type of blood donation where platelets are collected. Whereas a regular blood donation procedure takes about ten minutes, the apheresis donation procedure can take up to two hours. According to the American Red Cross, “Apheresis platelet donors are a special and dedicated group.” They explain, “Because platelets can be stored for only five days, there is always a need for more apheresis donors.”
“Platelets are especially critical for cancer patients or anyone undergoing any type of chemotherapy or radiation therapy as they have a negative effect on an individual’s platelet count,” says Lopez. “These patients require fresh infusions of platelets to combat the side effects that come with these kinds of cancer treatments. It would require anywhere from six to eight whole blood pints for us to gather just one unit of platelets.”
Putting it simply, Lopez says, “There just are not too many folks out there who understand the importance of blood donation the way Rich does.”
Consistent with his name, Pearl offers tidbits of wisdom in between his catalogue of jokes. He remarks that, although he is proud of being a Vermonter who has reached this donation milestone, especially in regard to the apheresis process, what is most important is giving, no matter how. He quickly adds, “Lots of people give much more than I do, including my wife who is a teacher.”
Meanwhile, Lopez and the ARC staff in Burlington will continue to see Pearl every two weeks.
“This is an incredible accomplishment. His dedication to doing something good for someone else is virtually unmatched,” says Lopez, remarking, “I really feel lucky to know him.”
We do too.
If interested in scheduling a blood donation appointment or for more information about blood donation, visit www.redcrossblood.org or call the Donor Center/Apheresis line directly at 802- 497-6803.
SOURCE: Carole Vasta Folley, The Other Paper