OGDEN -- When James Michael Ashworth joined the military, he said he saw firsthand the need for qualified blood donors.
He decided to stick out his arm and start giving some of his blood.
Ashworth, of Layton, recently hit the 56-gallon mark, making him a member of MountainStar Blood Services 50-Gallon Club.
In addition to Ashworth, three other local blood donors were inducted into the club. Sister Mary Zenzen of Ogden, Jaren Scott Patterson of Ogden and Steve Kapinos of Roy, have all donated 50 gallons or more of blood.
After giving 17 gallons of whole blood, a phlebotomist told Ashworth he was the perfect candidate to provide platelets for babies as an apheresis donor. Apheresis is a process where specific components of blood are separated through centrifugation, which are then collected in a sterile bag. The remaining parts are safely returned to the donor in the same vein, said Steven Hansen, recruiting supervisor for MountainStar Blood Services.
In addition, Ashworth discovered his brother in Texas has donated 70 gallons of blood. He said he plans to surpass that record.
Kapinos, who has donated 53 gallons, said he was scared of needles and actually fainted when he donated for the first time. He said he still doesn't like needles but became addicted to the donation process after hearing heart-warming stories of how local patients' lives were saved because blood was available for transfusion. When he learned he was also qualified to donate blood to infants he said he became hooked.
"I got a high from it," he said.
Patterson said he became a regular whole blood donor in 1982 because the federal government provided paid time off for its employee donors. In 1986, his mother had open heart surgery and needed a blood transfusion. That's when he said he really became committed to donating blood. To date, he has donated 52 gallons.
Zenzen, one of the Sisters of St. Benedict who has worked as a nurse, said she has had the opportunity to see how burn and cancer patients benefit from the generosity of blood donors. While observing a unit of blood being transfused to a patient at Ogden Regional Medical Center, she noticed the date on the bag matched that of her most recent donation. She wondered if the platelets being given were hers.
"I'm glad for the gift of health and a good platelet count," she said.
Zenzen has given 52 gallons of blood and is the second woman in MountainStar Blood Services history to reach the 50 gallon mark.
Hansen said there is always a need for blood, but right now there is a real demand for O-negative and A-negative blood.
"That will likely be the case for the foreseeable future," he said. "At any given moment, however, the most critical need is for the unit that is not 'on the shelf' and available for transfusions so all blood types are important."
Hansen said donations tend to evaporate during the summer months. In large part that's because there are so many high school and college students who are not on campus and readily available. Regular donors are also out of town much of the time.
MountainStar Blood Services is located on the campus of Ogden Regional Medical Center. Appointments are suggested to minimize wait times by calling 801-479-2389. Walk-in are always welcome. Donors should be symptom free of any illness for at least 72 hours before donating blood. To find out if you qualify, call 1-877-45-BLOOD.