RIBC Celebrates Top African American Donor for Black History Month

David Walker has been saving lives for over 40 years, first donating with Rhode Island Blood Center when we opened our doors in 1979. In honor of Black History Month, Rhode Island Blood Center recently spoke with Mr. Walker, who is our top African American donor. He is also one of our top whole blood donors.

When speaking with RIBC, David says he makes an effort to donate whole blood like clockwork when he is eligible.

“You know the 8 weeks comes and I have to go donate a pint of blood. It’s part of my routine.”

David’s donation record is full of milestones when you look at the numbers. As of January 2023, David has donated 225 times, which equals 28 gallons. 99% of those donations are whole blood. Some donors look to switch to platelets as they can donate more often. David says he tried donating platelets, but the process just wasn’t for him. 

“I feel good about being a top donor. Donating is something I started doing and it makes sense. It doesn’t hurt and it’s well worth the effort.” 

While speaking with RIBC, David reflected on why he first started donating during his time in the Navy. “They used to give 6 hours off with pay if you donated blood.” David said he then started donating for those he knew might need blood one day. 

He recalled a time a former boss asked if he could donate to help his father. 

“I was working in Providence and I told the boss i will be late because I am donating blood and he would laugh at me” said David. He tells us that shortly after he donated one day, his boss asked if David was eligible to donate again, as his father had just gone into the hospital and needed blood. David says that memory reminds him why it’s important to donate on a regular basis. 

David also reflected on the changes he has seen in the 40 years he has been donating. Recalling how staff used a metal lancet to obtain a blood sample to test his levels during the preliminary exam. Now, he tells RIBC, it’s just a simple poke and you don’t even feel it. He also commends the RIBC staff for making the donation process easy. Telling us the last time he donated, he did not even feel the phlebotomist poke him to start the process. 

For David. there have been a few hiccups along the way of reaching such an incredible milestone. He had to stop giving for a time due to surgeries and travel. However, he says once he learned he was eligible to donate, he ws back in the chair ready to give. 

“Once I started taking blood pressure medication I stopped donating because I thought I had to. My wife inquired at her appointment and they said that’s not a problem. I was there the next week.” 

With the advancements in blood collections, we now know it’s important to have a diverse blood supply to help better treat patients. Diversity helps in getting better matches for those who may be undergoing a sickle cell crisis and need a transfusion. 

When asked about the importance all ethnicities showing up to donate, David had one very simple message:

“It’s easy to donate.”

Mr. Walker is humble when asked about his milestones with RIBC. Instead saying he is just helping out where he can.

“It just feels like a nice thing to do, and I feel good doing it.” 

David has helped over 600 lives with his donations and is encouraging others to donate as well. He tells RIBC it’s a simple way of looking out for people in the community. He is now looking forward to another milestone, hitting 30 gallons in the next couple years.

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