Robertson Pools

My seven siblings and I were raised by kind parents. They always did good things for others, and they taught us to do the same. That kindness inspired me to give back. Everyone in my family has donated blood at one time, including my now 98-year-old father.

The first time I did it was in high school. I donated through college and just continued from there. You always felt good because there was always a need, so I developed a habit of donating pretty regularly. My oldest brother, Duane, has also kept it up. In fact, he just reached the 100th pint donation milestone this year.

Learning new ways to donate

Being a regular at my local blood bank sometimes meant I was the first to sign up for new procedures. That’s how I was introduced to a process for donating platelets, the tiny blood cells that help with healing and clotting. During apheresis, you have to sit for 11/2 to 2 hours as a machine filters out platelets and returns your blood to you. Since I have a very high platelet count, I could make a double or triple batch.

I liked platelet donation because, to me, it didn’t feel as draining as giving blood. The people at the blood bank started calling me when there was a need. They might say, “There’s someone at the children’s hospital who needs it.” Saying no never crossed my mind because I’d always think to myself, “What if someone in my family needs it and it’s not there?”

In the mid-1990s, I was at the blood bank when they were doing a big push to sign people up for the bone marrow donor registry. It was a simple swab of the cheek. I never thought anything else of it and just continued on as a platelet donor.

In early 2000, I got a call that I was a possible match for a patient who needed bone marrow. I was asked to go in for three or four weeks worth of testing, which included a physical and lab work. I had to sign quite a bit of forms, too. They have to make sure you’re all in, because once they start preparing the recipient, they need that marrow.

Excited to help someone, I didn’t think much about the procedure, which involved drilling into about 13 areas of my hip bone to extract marrow. My wife was more realistic: She told me to make sure I was thinking through what the process and recovery time would be like. One potential side effect is feeling arthritis pain in the extraction location later in life. But none of this was enough to stop me.

Becoming a marrow match

I went into the hospital for an outpatient procedure, and the marrow immediately went to the recipient in London. My donation went to a younger man who had cancer in his legs. I never found out who he was, but the donation center sends updates. I’d see that he hit the six-month milestone and the one-year milestone. As far as I know, the process was successful.

Recovery was okay, but it did hurt to sit for a long time. There are some days now when it’s cold and my whole bottom hip aches. But that’s nothing compared to someone who is sick or dying of cancer.

In 2012 or 2013, I was contacted again, this time to help a woman with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The donation center said I could choose a nonsurgical procedure called peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation. They would extract the material needed from my bloodstream instead of drilling into the bone.

For five days, someone came to my house or my office and gave me a shot of a drug called filgrastim, which moves more blood-forming cells out of the bone marrow and into the bloodstream. Then I went through about seven hours of apheresis to remove the cells they needed.

This recipient, a really nice lady from Ohio named Suzie, asked the registry for my contact information. She sent me a box of chocolates with a beautiful note telling me what my donation meant to her and her family. We connected on Facebook and kept tabs on each other for a few years.

Sadly, she passed away last January after a new cancer developed in her kidneys. When I called her husband to express my condolences, he thanked me for giving his family four extra years with Suzie. Something that felt like a small thing for me was huge for that family. That’s why it’s important to donate.

I talk about my experience with employees and customers to encourage others to join the registry, and a few have signed up. My email signature also has a link to the bone marrow registry.

You wouldn’t hesitate to do this to save your own family member, so you have to look at every recipient as worth it. If you want to learn more about bone marrow donation or get your name on the registry, visit