Gail Brian: Reflecting On 400 Donations

August 10, 2022 at 4:12 pm

Here at SBC, we love to celebrate our incredible milestone donors and the impact they’ve had on helping support patients in our community. Gail Brian recently made her 400th milestone donation. Ross Coyle, Public Relations Officer, interviewed the Menlo Park resident about what inspires her to donate and what keeps her coming back all these years.

What does your 400th blood donation mean to you?

In so many ways, it’s just a Saturday like many others before it. It’s not until I see the picture of me way back after reaching my 100th that I see how much time has passed! How many hobbies I picked up and left behind in that time? How many movies have I watched? How many trips around the sun? More than I can remember! But this simple practice of donating roughly every other Saturday has become as much a part of my life as having my morning coffee or doing the Sunday crossword.

What led you to donate blood the first time?

I was initially motivated to donate by my husband Ben. He was following in the footsteps of his father, also a regular blood donor. Every Saturday, Ben would get up early and go in for a platelet donation. I used to give him a hard time and joke that he was visiting his “other family” while I stayed home with the kids. His dedication definitely rubbed off on me, but I was pretty scared the first time I went in. I had (and still have) a terrible fear of needles and I wasn’t sure I could actually go through with it. But the staff was extra patient, treated me like royalty and made sure that I was comfortable. Fear slowly turned to joy as I discovered both the pride of conquering my tiny pointed foe and now a new interest Ben and I could enjoy together.  

What keeps you coming back all these years? 

I’ve had the great good fortune to never need a platelet donation or blood product. Some truly incredible adults and children have not had that luxury. I’ve heard some of their stories and feel what I do is such a little thing compared to what they need to overcome. So I’m endlessly inspired by them. And the recipients aren’t the only ones who bring me back in — It’s the staff, too. Their work and who they are as people are just as important to me. I honestly feel they are a part of my extended family now, and always look forward to catching up on what’s happening with folks when I come in.

Did you ever think you’d be donating so long that you would reach 400 donations? 

Gosh, no! I feel like I’ve won the lottery for being able to do it as long as I have. And honestly, there are times when I’ve spotted other folks like Ben with their rare green t-shirt (500 donations) and it’s like a celebrity sighting for me!

Why do you donate at Stanford Blood Center?

My first platelet donation was at Stanford, and I think I just was treated so well that it’s never crossed my mind to go anywhere else.

What has the experience been like for you?

Well, it’s been easy. So much easier for me to give than to be the one who actually needs it. The stories the families have shared about what they’ve been through, it’s humbling and has taught me gratitude. And on top of all this is the icing on the cake — the memories. I’ve grown so attached to the dedicated staff that I take it personally when they retire! Seriously though, it’s the connections we’ve made over the years that have meant so much. I love that we’re at the point of sharing vacation recommendations or the latest baby pictures or even how someone’s decorated for Christmas. My life is richer for having donated.

What would you say to potential first-time donors who may be on the fence about donating blood?

Are you a radical or the middle-of the-roader? Were you the captain of the football team or the kid who was always picked last? Are you the adventurous or the homebody? Afraid of needles? Well, that’s us. Don’t fall for the thinking that only certain people or a special type of person walks through that door. There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to who donates, just like there are no substitutes for blood, platelets or plasma. But there’s always a place for you here.