JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There aren't that many 100-gallon blood donors in the United States, and Jacksonville is about to welcome its third biggest giver of life.
Following in the footsteps of Northeast Florida's first 100-gallon donor, Bill Conroy (March 28, 2011) and Dean Willis (December 12, 2011), Kelly Williams will join the elite club of three on January 10 when she donates at The Blood Alliance at South Jacksonville's donor center
Kelly Williams made his first blood donation in Jacksonville at Fletcher High School in 1970 "…to get out of class." Little did he know that his self-seeking act would turn him into a selfless lifetime donor 43 years later.
Williams didn't become an aggressive donor until his oldest son, at age 13, needed open heart surgery back in 1992. Williams arranged for a blood drive in his son's name at his church and began his mission to donate whole blood regularly himself.
From a whole blood donor, he then became a platelet donor, bringing him in to The Blood Alliance every two weeks faithfully after learning how to donate specific blood components called, apheresis - a procedure in which blood is drawn from a donor and separated into its components, some of which are retained, such as plasma or platelets, and the remainder returned by transfusion to the donor. Giving platelets takes a little longer than the brief whole blood donation procedure, so it takes dedication to be an apheresis donor.
Inspired by the people who took meticulous care of him while donating, Williams decided to work for The Blood Alliance and became a phlebotomist in 2000, through the blood bank's professional training program. He rose through the ranks steadily and swiftly became a team leader for The Blood Alliance at Southside's donor center.
"I love the people I worked with, and was inspired daily by the positive energy around the workplace," said Williams. "People come in to donate because they want to, not because they have to. That's what makes this a special place."
Williams worked for The Blood Alliance for five years before retiring.
When asked how many gallons he has donated, most find it hard to imagine.
"They can't believe how much time I've spent in the donor chair to reach 100-gallons!"
The apple did not fall far from William's tree, as he followed in the footsteps of his father who was also a donor. And, his own family now takes his lead – from his children to his brother, sisters and their kids, "That's an awful lot of family donors!"