Robert Foflygen, 66, settled on a blue-padded chair at Central Blood Bank’s Washington donor center as casually as if it were his sofa. On Tuesday, Foflygen’s seat sported a bundle of balloons, signaling his 300th blood donation at the center on West Beau Street.
“I really never gave it much thought,” said Foflygen, a former U.S. Postal Service letter carrier from South Strabane Township. “I just started giving.”
Inspired by his father’s donation, Foflygen continued the family tradition, becoming the center’s most frequent donor over a 26-year span.
Foflygen first donated his B-positive blood type July 30, 1982. He estimates donating whole blood about 80 times and platelets more than 200. On July 6, 1995, Foflygen began giving platelets, because the donation opportunities were more frequent. During a platelet donation, blood is drawn, filtered of its platelets and is transfused back into the donor. The platelets replenish in the body in three to four days.
Donors are limited to contributing whole blood every 56 days, whereas platelets can be drawn up to 24 times annually.
According to Diane Patterson, supervisor at the Central Blood Bank’s Washington donor center, platelets are administered to chemotherapy and injured patients, as well as hemophiliacs.
Patterson said the center recommended Foflygen switch to platelet donations.
“(Foflygen) started out as a whole blood donor. Then we converted him to the platelet donations,” Patterson said. “He’s pretty much strictly a platelet-only donor.”
Foflygen willingly made the transition. “It just seemed like more of a contribution,” he said.
Not everyone welcomes this form of donation as wholeheartedly as Foflygen. Instead of a 20-minute blood donation, platelet extractions typically take two hours.
Nonetheless, Foflygen’s commitment to the center’s cause exceeds time constraints.
“When somebody asks you for a donation. It’s real simple to reach into your wallet and pull out $10 or $20,” Foyflygen said. “When I give platelets, I’m literally giving of my body, and to me, that’s very special.”
His donations are also very special to the Central Blood Bank as well.
Caitlyn Doyle, marketing director at Central Blood Bank, celebrated Foflygen’s contribution by presenting him with balloons, cake and a gift basket containing Pirates tickets, a plaque, gift cards and Central Blood Bank-themed items.
The center recently implemented the Brighten Life reward program. Visitors to the Central Blood Bank receive points for each donation, which eventually can be cashed in for gift cards.
“Donating any number of times is pretty awesome these days,” Doyle said. “Only 37 percent of people are eligible to donate and of that number only 5 percent or fewer are actually coming in (to the center).”
Circumstances such as recent tattoos, travel, as well as illness can cause candidates to be ineligible for donation.
“For someone to come in once or twice a year is a major commitment,” Doyle said. “So to hit that 300 number – it’s nothing short of amazing. And he’s going to keep going.”
“Actually, my goal is to go to 400,” Foflygen confirmed, a smiling cracking across his face. “That’s probably about six or seven years away.”