For Baylor Scott & White courier Ricky Smith, delivering donated blood and platelets gets personal.
“When I’m carrying a box of donations into a hospital, I often wonder if my own platelets are inside,” he said.
Ricky is among a handful of faithful “regulars” at the Scott & White Blood Center, where donors have the opportunity to give three life-saving donations: blood, platelets and dual-red blood cells. The process for collecting one unit of platelets takes about an hour each time. Last year, Ricky spent 21 hours total at the center donating his platelets.
He’s donated nearly 100 times in the past six years.
“I’ve delivered at cancer centers and I see the significance of why my platelets are needed,” he said. “You see how tough it is on people. Cancer affects so many.”
Platelets are a blood component that helps the blood clot to prevent bleeding. They’re crucial for patients with leukemia and other types of cancer because healthy platelets are destroyed during chemotherapy and radiation.
Ricky hasn’t known family members or close friends with cancer. He’s only caught glimpses on his hospital delivery route of those affected, as they sit patiently in a treatment center with their chemo drip.
“Ricky is one-of-a-kind,” said Ashley Davis, donor services recruiter at the Scott & White Blood Center. “He’s quiet as a mouse, but all of us know him at the center. When I see Ricky, it makes me happy to know there are still good people in the world.”
As a regular donor, he’s like family, said Veshell Willis, also a donor services recruiter at the center.
“The community of regular blood donors is very tight-knit and very faithful. They don’t donate for the T-shirts or the snacks, they do it because they can. Regulars donate every time they can. We get to know them by name,” Veshell said.
A year ago Ricky learned the center’s donation numbers were down, so he devised an incentive program to encourage more people to donate. He bought prizes – TVs, tablets, blu ray players, Fitbits, gift cards – and held raffles every three months for donors. The more times someone donates, the higher their chances for being picked.
“We call Ricky our ‘Secret Santa,’” Ashley said.
The plan worked: the center’s donation numbers increased, and the staff credit Ricky’s generosity. At 60 years old, he knows the time is coming when he won’t be able to donate platelets anymore, but he plans to continue donating prizes to help keep the center’s numbers up.
“Most people have a special cause that they’re dedicated to,” Ricky said. “This one is mine.”