Sunnyside residents believe in giving the gift of life

The first time he gave blood, it was during World War II when his comrades in arms needed it. Since that time, Sunnyside's Gene Startup has kept right at it, donating an official 128 pints of blood to the American Red Cross.

Come Tuesday, he'll be donating again.

Things have changed since the first time he donated blood overseas. "They used it right there, they didn't test it or anything. They couldn't, they didn't have time to," he said.

While that's a far cry from tests conducted today, there is a bottom line that holds true: donating blood saves lives.

"There's no substitute for blood," says James Baxter, American Red Cross Collections Operations Manager for Yakima. "There's no second chance, no artificial substance to substitute it."

Billy Guyer's been donating blood here since 1954. "When I first started donating blood, the girls (his daughters) were all small. At that time, you had to build up a bank of blood, so I built it up for the girls."

Guyer said that, back then, if you received a blood transfusion, you either had to donate to pay it back or pay for it.

That got the Sunnyside man into the habit of going to blood drawings. And there have definitely been rewards over the years.

"When dad got hurt, I asked about blood. They told me I'd donated enough, that he'd get what he needed," recalled Guyer.

So did one of Guyer's neighbors who had a case of yellow jaundice. For two or three years, Guyer donated blood to make up for what his neighbor had used.

But there is one dramatic instance where Guyer was able to help on the spot. "The phone rang at 1:30 or 2 in the morning and they said, 'This is Sunnyside Hospital.' Right then, it didn't sound good. I'm O-negative. They needed someone with O-negative blood for a baby they were about to lose.

"I told them, 'I have a cold.' They told me they could treat a baby for a cold, but they couldn't do anything for him if he died." Guyer promptly went to the hospital and donated.

"About six weeks later the mother called after her baby's check-up. He'd gotten through it with flying colors," Guyer said.

According to Baxter, blood supply is very tight the last week in December and the first two weeks in January. "Whether it's because of bad weather, cold and flu season, or because people are busy (after the holidays), blood donations are always especially needed at that time of year."

Baxter said that, on average, about 40 units of blood are collected from drives such as one that will be held in Sunnyside next Tuesday, Jan. 2. "Accident victims need anywhere from four to 40 units of red blood cells. In one accident, a victim could use all of what's donated."

The goal for the Jan. 2 blood drive is to collect 75 units of blood.

Sunnyside donors who trek to the United Methodist Church Hall between 1-6 p.m. to donate blood that day will find their names entered into a drawing. Baxter said that from Dec. 18 through Jan. 7, the American Red Cross is drawing names for four $100 Fred Meyers gift cards a day throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Said Baxter, "The people of Sunnyside have been very generous. We appreciate their past and continued support."



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