Mike hated the idea of hospitals, needles and medical procedures due to medical issues his sister had endured growing up. But one day, he and his wife were driving by a Vitalant donation center in Rapid City, South Dakota, and Mike decided to lay his fears to rest. "This is ridiculous, I need to get over this, let's go in and donate blood," he told his wife.
That unplanned stop became 45-mile trips every two months, with the couple donating blood together and having a date night. Later, he was asked to donate platelets, and his visits increased to every two weeks. Now, 33 years later, Mike has made 500+ donations. But helping patients isn’t the only thing that kept him coming back for decades.
"I keep coming back because it's my responsibility to donate and help others, but it's the personal relationships with the Vitalant staff that has cemented my commitment to donating,” Mike said.
Mike’s experience and sentiments are common among blood donors who give at our donation centers. Many say they keep coming back because of the relationships they form, and Vitalant staff said they, too, cherish the strong bonds created with regular donors, who come to feel like family.
“We get to know donors on a personal level. We get to know how their family is doing, how their kids are doing in school, etc. We see these donors every eight weeks; they’re like a family member to me,” said Dawn, a site supervisor in Arizona.
When you step into a Vitalant donation center, you’ll be ushered through the donation process in a cozy, welcoming atmosphere. You may even find the center decorated for the holidays, and holiday-themed treats in the kitchen area brought in by staff or donors. Many staff pride themselves on greeting regular donors by name, making donors feel comfortable and remembering important details like where donors prefer to sit, TV shows they like to watch while donating and favorite snacks.
Staff will often put together celebrations for special occasions like milestone donations and birthdays, too. When regular plasma donor Michael in California recently celebrated his 600th donation (pictured above), staff had balloons and a special recognition certificate waiting for him. He said Vitalant donor care staff make his very frequent blood donation visits fun.
“The staff treat me like family, and I feel like they are family to me. I have met many Vitalant staff over the years and enjoy getting to know new people – it’s an added benefit to my donations.”
Stephen, a Vitalant donor relations specialist in California, said donors extend kindnesses to the donation center staff as well. He has regular Sunday donors who bring in snacks like doughnuts and churros. “(This is) the result of the close relationships we’ve established with our donors,” he said. “What I love most about my job is the chance to engage with donors, to be able to get to know a donor so well that we now consider each other as a friend.”
When you become like family, you share the sad moments as well. Michelle, site supervisor in Ohio, shared the touching story of twin brothers who donated platelets together every two weeks. One of the twins passed away, and the surviving brother asked family and friends to make financial or blood donations in his memory. Not only did multiple people show up to donate blood, but also the center received enough monetary donations to purchase its first AED device.
“I was in awe that even during the most heartbreaking of times, this donor thought of our center to remember his brother,” Michelle said. “He still comes in every two weeks and donates, and each time he looks at the AED and smiles, my heart swells with gratitude. The work we do here is nothing short of amazing, and the friendships we share with our community have proven to last the test of time.”