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Harold Mendenhall, 84, donates 100th gallon of blood

LAKE PARK, Fla.A lifetime of blood donations has led a South Florida man to reach a rare and impressive milestone.

Harold Mendenhall, 84, has donated his 100th gallon of blood. He started giving donations on July 7, 1977, The Palm Beach Post reported.

Mendenhall started donating blood when his wife, Frankie, was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she died seven years later, Mendenhall said he was lost. He stopped by the blood bank on his way home from work. Soon he was donating six gallons a year and last month he reached the milestone. Mendenhall's blood is especially coveted because he donates blood platelets, which are essential for clotting blood.

During a platelet donation, a machine collects the platelets and returns red blood cells, according to the American Red Cross. Most opf the platelets go back to the donor. Patients with blood cancers, like leukemia often require platelets, the paper added.

Mendenhall says giving blood helped him cope with the loss of his wife and, later, two sons.

Some platelet donations yield enough platelets for up to three therapeutic doses for patients, according to the Red Cross. By contrast, it can take up to six whole blood donations to produce a single therapeutic dose.

There are other benefits to blood donation -- the blood bank offers coupons for free meals at area restaurants including Red Lobster, Chili's and the Olive Garden.

He told the Post that even though he's donated blood more than 400 times, he still won't watch the needle slide into his vein.

"Giving blood can only be done by a human being, so that's been my payback for my career and my good health and all the blessings I've had," said Mendenhall.

One whole blood donation can help as many as three patients, according to the Mayo Clinic. They may be used in surgeries: For example, a hip replacement on average uses one unit of blood, a cardiac bypass or heart transplant requires two units, and a liver transplant could take as many as six units. The need for blood increases during holidays and summer months, the Clinic adds, because people are more likely to be active during these times, increasing their accident risks.

The American Red Cross has more information on blood donation.