Doug Schutte ’75 recently became the top blood donor in the state of Virginia, according to the American Red Cross. He’s been donating blood products since 1987, and since 1999 he has donated two units of platelets every 14 days and a unit of plasma every 28 days, for a total of 24 donations a year (the most the FDA will allow a person to donate). Schutte’s blood has gone as far south as Atlanta and as far north as Maryland.
How did you get started donating blood?
As a healthy human being it is my obligation to my fellow human beings to do this for them. I started donating blood in New Jersey when I was working for the attorney general’s office after graduating from Princeton. I knew that there was a need for it at the time. It dropped off when I moved and changed jobs and then started up again when I settled in Virginia.
The local Virginia Blood Service, which was the place to donate in Central Virginia, was eventually purchased by the American Red Cross. This was a huge boon since the American Red Cross operates blood drives nationally.
Typically, a person donates blood once a year. What made you feel the need to donate this much?
When donating plasma and platelets, you can donate 24 times a year. Because it’s an automated system to take platelets, they cycle your blood through a centrifuge and take your platelets out. It takes 2½ to 3 hours. You can donate that many times because you get your red cells back. With whole blood you are allowed to donate six times a year.
So I was donating six times a year. And then there was a young man, a 13-year-old in my church, that needed a bone marrow transplant because of leukemia. At the time, the test to get into the bone marrow program cost $275. Now it’s just a swab and doesn’t cost much. The Virginia Blood Services would cover the cost if you donated platelets. That’s when I started donating platelets, and I would donate platelets, and then three days later, I’d give whole blood, and I’d have to wait for eight weeks and do the whole thing again. I was doing about 12 donations a year for a few years.
I asked, what is the need from me and my blood type? They wanted platelets. That is when I started doing exclusively platelets and then they started asking for plasma as well. You can give plasma 12 times a year and you can do it simultaneously. Every other time I go in and donate double platelets and plasma. Sometimes, if my platelet count is high enough, they can get a triple donation of platelets and plasma. That’s going to three or four different hospitals and affecting as many as a dozen people with one donation.
I’ve now donated 1,222 blood units (platelets, whole blood, plasma, white blood cells, and red blood cells only). I’m close to 700 donations with those products taken out of the donations. I’ve saved a small town.
Someone who annually donates a pint of blood, if they just donated twice, instead of once a year, we would have no blood shortage in America. There is nothing negative about donating. It’s people helping other people, which is what we want in the world. — Interview conducted and condensed by Nicholas DeVito