By Sarah Snyder
Premature babies, cancer and heart patients need blood platelets.
United Blood Services tells NewsWest 9 there's a huge need not only here in the Basin but all over the country, and one Ohio retiree decided to spread the message.
"I was laying there donating one day and I said, I can do more than this," Al Whitney with Platelets Across America, said.
70-year-old Al Whitney has been donating blood in his home state of Ohio since 1965. He's organized blood drives every week since then, but now he's taking it on the road.
"I said to myself, I can do more than just donate platelets," Whitney said. "And I came up with this idea and it's just snowballed like crazy. This is my 15th State."
He's traveling to all 50 States to raise awareness for the need for platelet donations.
"I've talked to a blood bank in every State and the first thing they say is how soon can you get here?" Whitney said.
"We have a tremendous need for platelet donors," Lee Hartmann with United Blood Services, said. "We have a very small pool of whole blood donors, but very small pool of platelet donors."
Cancer and heart patients, and premature babies have the biggest need.
"There are just people that are just dying for it," Whitney said. "And people say, 'oh, I don't like needles. Those people in the cancer ward, they've got needles all over them. This is nothing compared to what they're going through, and if I can positively affect their life, then I'm going to."
It's a mission he's willing to sacrifice for.
"I don't have a sponsor," Whitney said. "I'm retired. I'm doing this out of pocket."
He says donating platelets takes just a little over an hour.
"The only difference with this, is it takes a time commitment," he said. "But what a better way to get some relaxing time?"
"We did have some people last week that had to wait for platelet transfusions and you never want that to happen," Hartmann said. "So the only way to prevent that situation is if we get more platelet donors like Mr. Whitney coming in and donating on a regular basis."