Paying It Forward: Tadashi Okuno’s 200 Blood Donations (And Counting!)
What does your 200th blood donation mean to you?
Two hundred donations represent 25 Gallons! I’ve contributed a valued, tangible resource that can perhaps further research, education or life-saving medical treatment, and that feels great!
What led you to donate blood the first time?
I first donated blood upon accepting an acquaintance’s invitation to participate in a UC Berkeley campaign back in the early ‘80s, then began regularly donating at the nearest blood bank.
Why do you donate?
I stopped donating blood after graduating college due to the busyness of establishing relationships and a career. In the late ‘90s, a stranger saved my life in downtown San Francisco when he yanked me out of the path of a Muni bus and then disappeared before I could thank him. When my employer began sponsoring blood drives, I participated to express gratitude and balance the scales. Every donation over the decades has represented a thank you to that anonymous stranger.
What keeps you coming back?
I would donate regardless, but the friendly, engaging staff turns a responsibility into a pleasure. I enjoy seeing their familiar faces and chit-chatting about the latest goings-on in our lives.
Did you ever think you’d be donating so long that you would reach 200 donations?
When I was giving whole blood, the 100 donations club wasn’t an obtainable goal; it was more of a curiosity. Even after I’d switched to apheresis, 100 donations was years away, but I scheduled my appointments months ahead to stay on track — and career and four kids keep us so busy that the years just roll by, so here I am already at 200!
Why do you donate at Stanford Blood Center?
The numerous donation centers and outbound mobile collection buses make Stanford Blood Center convenient to support. However, as a former Cal (Berkeley) Bandsman, I’m enjoined from wearing a red-colored arm wrap. Fortunately, the blue wrap is usually available, lest I go without and end up dripping my blue and gold blood all over the facility.
What has the experience been like for you?
Donating regularly has the benefit of becoming familiar to and with the staff, and reminds me of the Cheers theme song: “Where everybody knows your name; And they’re always glad you came; You want to go where people know; People are all the same; You want to go where everybody knows your name.”
What would you say to potential first-time donors who may be on the fence about donating blood?
After encouraging them to take this opportunity to make a difference, I would refer prospective donors to stanfordbloodcenter.org and check out the Donation FAQS page to allay any concerns they might have and to read the First-Time Blood Donor Information to explain why they’re needed. Also, I’d mention the spiffs: being appreciated; satisfaction; a time-out from the humdrum; new acquaintances; wearables & tchotchkes; and, of course, the beverage and snack bar.