There was no special moment that led Linda McGraw to start giving blood in the 1970s.
“A friend invited me to go with her to the bloodmobile,” she said.
From this simple origin sprung a lifetime tradition of giving, and on July 13 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hutchinson, the 72-year-old rural Buffalo Lake woman celebrated a special milestone: 20 gallons of donated blood.
“It’s easy to write a check to any organization,” McGraw said, “but when you’re actually giving a part of yourself, to me it seems more meaningful.”
To put this accomplishment into perspective, each donation is one unit, or pint, of blood, and eight units equals a gallon. The American Red Cross allows donations once every eight weeks, or once every 16 weeks for those who give a Power Red donation, which takes two units of blood and returns plasma and platelets to the donor. That means after more than 40 years, McGraw has given 160 donations.
“There’s been a couple years where I couldn’t donate because I was exempt because we traveled abroad, and there was one year I had medical issues and I couldn’t give,” McGraw recalled. “But I’ve pretty consistently given at least 4 pints a year.”
After decades of giving, McGraw said she’s developed a routine to make sure she’s not deferred. She drinks plenty of water before, during and after giving blood, and she eats lots of iron-rich foods, such as vegetables and protein to keep her hemoglobin levels up. Eating veggies isn’t a problem, as she grows plenty of her own as a master gardner for the past 32 years.
The final trick to remember is to eat a little something sweet after giving blood.
“During COVID we didn’t have homemade cookies,” she said. “I missed them in that when I got home I got lightheaded and my physician told me it was because I didn’t have the cookies. I needed my sugar.”
She’s also passed her passion for giving blood on to her daughter, Karrie Taylor, who was a recent first-time donor.
Like her first donation years ago, there was no special moment for McGraw’s 20-gallon milestone, and that’s the way she prefers it. She’s not looking for recognition. She just hopes her generosity inspires others to start giving blood.
“It’s relatively painless,” she said. “Just do it.”