Back home, they call him Count Dracula - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Back home, they call him Count Dracula

Al Whitney donates platelets at the Blood Bank of Hawaii Al Whitney donates platelets at the Blood Bank of Hawaii
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

He's nicknamed the "Pied Piper of Platelets" and back home, they even call him Count Dracula.

Al Whitney has never needed a blood transfusion nor have any of his familymembers. Whitney just took it upon himself to bring awareness to the need for blood donations, and he's traveling to all 50 states to do it.

He's a man on a mission.

Just 10 days shy of his 75th birthday, Whitney wanted to mark World Blood Donor Day by coming to Hawaii to give. He's been donating since 1965.

"I've given five gallons of whole blood," says Whitney. "This'll be 706 units of platelets that I've given." Whole blood includes red blood cells, platelets, and plasma. Platelets, themselves, are essential for blood clotting and are routinely needed for cancer patients, burn victims, and surgeries. They only have a five-day shelf life once blood is donated.

In 2007, the retired factory worker from Ohio launched a "Platelets Across America" tour - vowing to bring attention to the importance of donating and give blood in every state of the nation.

He says it's a calling. "I cannot do brain surgery. I can't do open heart surgery, but I can collect blood and get people to donate blood."

The Blood Bank of Hawaii needs up to 7,000 new donors every year to keep up with demand. "The need is very big," says Dr. Randal Covin, Associate Medical Director at the state's blood bank. Right now, only 2-3% of eligible Hawaii residents actually give. Summertime and holidays are most critical. "We need to collect, actually, about 200 units of blood every single day in order to meet the needs," explains Dr. Covin.

Everywhere Whitney goes - even getting his blood drawn - he's soliciting. "You going to donate today?" he asks a passerby.

Whitney still has Montana and Wyoming to visit for his tour to be complete. "I wanted to make this my 50th state, make this Hawaii 5-0, but it didn't work out. I'm Hawaii 4-8!" he laughs.

Well, we're certain the "Pied Piper of Platelets" will eventually accomplish his mission.

For more information on Whitney's tour, check out his website plateletsacrossamerica.com. To find out how you can donate, go to the Blood Bank of Hawaii website at bbh.org or call (808) 848-4770.

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