[img_assist|nid=5732|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=225]STONY BROOK, NY, February 2, 2010 – Stony Brook University Medical Center Blood Bank presented frequent donor George Wybenga of Center Moriches, New York, with a Bulova "Marine Star" watch, in honor of his dedication and commitment to giving the gift of life, following his 200th blood platelet donation today.
The 73-year-old Wybenga, a retired professor of graphic and package design from the Fashion Institute of Technology and talented artist renowned for his watercolor paintings of railroad cabooses, said that he learned about giving blood by watching his father, who had a rare blood type, donate blood as a child in the Netherlands.
“I’m Dutch, and I feel like this is my best way of doing public service,” Wybenga said. “I guess about everybody in Holland donates blood. It’s considered a civic duty. I don’t know any of the patients I’ve helped, but I love going to the Stony Brook Blood Bank because the nurses there are fantastic, they really make you feel at home and a part of the family. I just go there for my coffee break.”
Wybenga travels 35 miles from his Center Moriches home to donate platelets at the Stony Brook University Medical Center Blood Bank the maximum of 24-times a year a donor is permitted to give this precious gift of life. His donor visit usually takes approximately two-and-a-half hours as his blood is removed, the platelets are taken from it, and then the blood is returned to his body.
Platelet donations are only viable for five days which makes platelet donators of extreme importance to blood banks. Platelets are the component in blood that helps stop bleeding and patients afflicted with a variety of diseases, including complications of birth, trauma, cancer, as well as patients undergoing surgery.
“We only have a handful of donors who come in as often as George, and to reach 200 platelet donations is very rare," said Doreen Cestare, the Nursing Administrator of the Stony Brook University Medical Center Blood Bank. “George usually comes about 24 times a year. In fact, sometimes we have to turn him away because he’s trying to come too frequently. He’s such a wonderful person and really goes above and beyond to help people.”
Wybenga, a naturalized American, has donated more than platelets to the Blood Bank. He’s also decorated the waiting room with a rotating show of his abstract paintings. The retired Wybenga travels around the country with his wife to paint the rare cabooses he can find as a historical record of this now defunct railroad car and is planning a book of these watercolors. (www.cabooseart.com)
Dr. Dennis K. Galanakis, the Director of the Stony Brook University Medical Center Blood Bank, the only full service hospital blood bank in Suffolk County, applauds Wybenga’s loyalty to blood platelet donation, especially since he’s aware that less than 5% of Americans donate blood or blood platelets from the 50% or more of people who could also give this special gift.
“George has probably helped several hundred patients with his platelet donations,” Galanakis said. “We cannot live without platelets. The donor provides a huge amount of help for those who need the platelets. Such patients often have a tenth or less of the normal amount of platelets and can suffer life-threatening bleeding. We have a small team of dedicated donors who donate regularly with us just like George, and we have a great relationship with them. These are among the silent heroes of our society who unselfishly and truly help save lives and prevent suffering from many serious complications of hemorrhage.”
Blood donor volunteers can give blood or blood platelet donations at the Stony Brook University Medical Center six days a week, Monday through Friday, 7:45 a.m.-8:00 p.m., and Saturday, 8:45 a.m.-4:00 p.m. To make an appointment to become a donor at the Stony Brook University Medical Center Blood Bank, please call 631-444-DONATE (631-444-3662).