Father Julian donates his 100th pint of blood Tuesday during the Red Cross blood drive at the Baker Nazarene Church. Sydney Gubetosi is a phlebotomist with the Red Cross.
By Lisa Britton
For the Baker City Herald
To celebrate donating his 100th pint of blood, Father Julian Cassar challenged himself to find 10 new donors.
He recruited 12.
All he said was: “To commemorate my 100th, will you donate?”
Colleen Brooks, local chair for the blood drive, said the quota for Baker is 60 people per day for the two-day drive.
Prior to each drive, she calls more than 200 potential donors.
“I left 42 messages,” she said.
Summer is a tough time for blood donations due to vacations and travel, she said.
After donating his 100th pint Tuesday, Cassar was presented with a certificate and a backpack.
And he’s not the only dedicated donor in Baker City.
On Tuesday, Joyce Pryse’s number rose to 153 donations, and Don Everson is at 144.
To donate, a person must be 17 (or 16 with parental consent), be healthy and weigh at least 110 pounds. You can donate blood every 56 days.
According to the Red Cross, one pint of blood can save up to three lives. However, a single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood — about what is collected during Baker City’s two-day drive.
Cassar grew up in Malta, and came to the U.S. in 1981. Three years later he’d gained enough weight to donate blood, which he did on July 15, 1984, at his parish, Holy Spirit in New Hyde Park.
This is what he remembers from that first donation: “I felt a little dizzy at first, and not knowing what to expect, they told me it was pretty normal. I spent the rest of the day in Rectory feeling very well, drinking lots of water, and being treated to a steak dinner in the evening with all the other priests.”
After that, he says, “going to give blood became as ordinary as going to the local library.”
He said he “wanted to commemorate this milestone by having at least 10 new donors, realizing that trying to get 100 new donors is a Herculean undertaking.”
Although most of his donations have been routine, there have been a few funny episodes during the last 28 years.
At a New York blood drive, he and another priest were donating. A young man walked in, saw the two priests sitting together, and promptly turned to leave.
“I and the nurse ran after him to convince him that everything was fine, no one had passed away and we were just there to do what he was planning to do — help save a life by donating a pint of blood.”
His other story happened in April of this year, when he donated his 99th pint in Bend where he was on a priests’ retreat.
Later that day, his fellow priests saw his bandaged arm and asked about it.
He said he’d donated blood, and then one asked what do they give you for doing something so noble?
“I told him that a few cookies, a drink and a “thank you” is all we ever get, and that’s fine with me, as giving blood can never be recompensed— it’s a genuine selfless gift we give to others.”
Father Luis Alva-Flores from Madras was so moved that he gave his iPad to Cassar.
“Father Luis is a savvy high-tech young priest, and I was always asking questions about this new invention called the iPad whenever we met for meetings.”
Now Cassar is on to his next 100 donations, and he hopes that the donors he recruited will continue to give on a regular basis.
He also commends the volunteers who provide take care of donors with sandwiches, pizza, cookies and liquids.
“I tell them that one of the reasons I enjoy donating blood is because of those sandwiches and the beef broth which always taste so good.”
The next blood drive happens Aug. 27 and 28. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call Colleen Brooks at 541-523-4650.