50-gallon blood donor discusses decades of donations

Gabriela X. Zuniga, Copy Editor

Mark Ammann, coordinator of residency admissions at Brookhaven Campus, has been a consistent blood donor since the 1970s. He earned a certificate naming him a 50-gallon blood donor. He shared his thoughts about blood donations.


How many years have you been donating blood? 

I started in the 1970s. But, they did not have computers to keep up with it until like way into the ’80s and beyond. My early donations were actually typed in on a little card but the records that they are keeping now on the computer go back to the ’80s. That is where the 53 gallons comes in. There are actually more donations early on, but I have no idea how much. 


Why do you encourage being a blood donor? 

I care about people and there is a need out there for all different blood products. There is whole blood and plasma. Some people sell plasma for money, and they do that on a fairly routine basis, but there are also platelets. Carter BloodCare identified me as a candidate for a platelet donation. Platelets help cancer victims, and so I can donate. In fact, I donate every two weeks, and I try to do a triple platelet donation, which is three times the normal donation amount. And because I am a big guy, I am able to do that. 

You can see I have got so much scar tissue in there, you can see it. I stopped using this arm now. But it helps people. I have had people in my family who have had cancer and friends, and I do not like cancer. I want it gone. I want it eradicated. So I am gonna donate as often as I can just for that. I started out only donating blood because there was a need for blood, but when I found out I was a platelet donor, I shifted over to that.


How long does the process take? 

The regular blood donation does not take long at all. It is a few minutes – You are in, you are out. With the donation I do – it is called apheresis – and they hook me up to a machine. So the machine draws the blood out and then it pumps saline back in and it is a cycle. 

So from the screening to the time I have my juice and cookies and then leave it’s usually about two and a half to three hours. That is why I do it every two weeks. 


Have you had any negative experiences donating blood? 

No. Donating with apheresis gives you fluid back in. You do not lose volume so you do not have the lightheaded feeling with a regular blood donation. Sometimes people go away woozy and lightheaded and they do not like that. That will stop people from donating again. And it is like, “Hey, try the apheresis thing.”

I was scared of it at first. I did not want to do it and somebody talked me into it. I said I will try it once. And after that it is like, “Well, I wish I would have, should have been doing this the whole time.” It does take a little bit longer, but it’s a much better experience. 

The only negative experience that I had was that every once in a while for a frequent donor, you will have a bad stick. Either somebody does not know what they are doing, or you get a needle that is a little wonky. But in all the donations I have done, it has happened twice. 


What are some positive moments you recall from donating? 

The coolest thing for me is the recognition banquet, which they do every year. Because although I am a 53-gallon donor, I see donors, they recognize them around the room and have them stand up, and I see donors that are over a hundred gallons that, you know, it is like, wow. It’s pretty amazing to see a room full of people that do what I do. Understanding that we are a very small group of people. That is the kind of thing that excites me. I like seeing all those other folks that are as involved as I am and make a difference.