GREENVILLE — Sitting on a table and slightly nervous while steadily squeezing a stress ball in her left hand, 17-year-old Ella Byington was donating blood for the very first time Wednesday afternoon.
Convinced by a friend to donate at the American Legion in Greenville, she become a little light-headed as a pint began to leave her body.
But shortly after starting, Greenville resident and friend Dan Eagles was placed next to the first-time donor and immediately shook her hand and offered words of comfort.
“It’s going to be OK,” he said to her. “Everything’s going to be just fine.”
Eagles would know, as he was there to officially donate his 200th pint, or 25th gallon, of blood, throughout 60 years of donating.
Eagles, joking with staff members and calm as always, continued his conversation with Byington, keeping her calm as she donated her 1st pint along with his 200th.
“For every pint of blood I give, up to three people can be helped with it,” he said. “It’s something that took me about an hour and a half, but that hour and a half of my life might be able to extend someone else’s life.”
Donor Care Specialist Donald Marsh with Michigan Blood has drawn from Eagles several times, and said he’s the first Greenville resident he can recall who has donated up to 25 gallons.
“It’s amazing, it’s a very large amount and you hardly ever see people reach that amount of donated blood,” he said. “In Greenville, this is the first 25 gallon pin I’ve ever seen given away.”
Marsh said it makes his job all the more enjoyable to see people such as Eagles come back to donate time and time again.
“Today has been awesome, we’ve been very busy,” he said. “By 3 p.m., we had already sent back 45 pints of blood.”
American Legion Chairperwoman Sharon Bouck said the blood drive at the American Legion has been going for nearly 30 years.
“I think Dan was here from day one,” she said. “For every gallon, you have to donate 8 times. With today’s being Dan’s 200’s donation, he has so far saved as many as 600 lives.”
According to Bouck, donors must be 16 years old, weigh 110 pounds and be in good health.
“I find that people, once they get into it, they will find a drive like this one and stay on schedule,” he said. “You can only donate every 56 days.”
As Eagles recalled the days of using smaller needles and watching his blood drip into glass bottles, he said his inspiration for giving back stems from family values he learned at a very young age.
“I come from a very giving family, it’s nearly hereditary to want to donate blood as often as I can,” he said. “I first donated right out of high school in Battle Creek. There may be another gallon that I donated that was never registered, but it’s not about that.
Eagles said he will continue to give as long as he is able, especially after being informed of people giving as many as 38 gallons.
“There’s no goal, I’ve just got to keep giving back,” he said. “You never know when someone is going to need that blood. We all need to do our part.”