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Blood Brother

blog_dirtLocal man has donated 43 gallons of blood

Eighty-six-year-old Felton resident Daniel Cunha has given a lot of himself to the American Red Cross over the years—in more ways than one. As a volunteer for over 50 years, he once helped transport bone marrow across the country. But in addition to the time he has given, he has given something even more personal: his blood. Forty-three gallons of his blood, to be exact.

A small ceremony was held on Friday, Feb. 19 at the Red Cross blood drive in Felton to commemorate Cunha’s enormous contribution. He was presented with a plaque before getting in the donor chair to give his unit of blood. Afterward, he and his wife, Sybil, enjoyed slices of cake brought for the occasion.

While everyone else in the room seemed to think his accomplishment was pretty amazing, Cunha himself was very humble and matter-of fact. Cunha began donating when the American Red Cross held blood drives at his former employer, Lockheed Martin. But even after he retired, Cunha continued to give blood. “I guess I got in the habit,” he says with a laugh.

Cunha reached his 43-gallon total by donating both blood and platelets. Platelets can be donated more frequently and count as two units, while only one unit (pint) of blood can be donated at a time. But donating platelets is a much longer and more involved process and uses two needles, one in each arm. Cunha says that while donating blood never fazed him, he was a little apprehensive the first time he donated platelets. “But the good part is you get to watch a movie,” he says.

Many of the Red Cross employees at the ceremony know Dan well, as they say he’s a regular at the blood drives. They were appreciative of his and everyone else’s contributions. One employee mentioned that despite all of the donations, the Northern California blood banks still do not collect enough blood, and California often needs to import blood from other states. “We always need new donors,” says one employee.

This particular drive is held monthly at the Felton Community Presbyterian Church (6090 Highway 9), usually on the third Friday of the month. Appointments are recommended. For a list of other local drives, visit the Red Cross website at redcross.org. And if you have never donated and are considering giving blood for the first time, in the words of Cunha, “It’s not a big deal, come on in and I’ll show you how.”

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