He's the blood center Santa

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Doug Ray set a record Saturday. He became the fifth blood donor in the state to surpass donations exceeding 100 gallons. Actually, Ray didn’t make it a goal to reach 100 gallons and, in fact, for an extended period he wasn’t keeping count, nor was anyone else.

Ray was working for ITT Grinnell in the 1980s when the daughter of a fellow employee needed blood transfusions in her battle against leukemia. Ray donated blood and kept on giving. He has a high platelet count, so he volunteered to give platelets, a process that takes longer than denotations of whole blood but can be taken every couple of weeks, whereas the interval between whole blood donations is at least eight weeks.

Ray looks forward to taking a couple of hours out of his schedule twice a month to donate, sit back, read, use his tablet, watch television, and talk with the staff at the Rhode Island Blood Center on Greenwich Avenue in Warwick. The staff know him as “one of the faithful.” His family also has grown accustomed to the routine.

“They’re used to me coming here and having a little red bandage on my arm,” said Ray, who is now retired from a career in information technology systems that sent him to countries around the world. He’s also seen technical advances in the process of procuring blood donations. When he started giving platelets – he donates three units of platelets at a time – the blood was withdrawn from one arm and, after the extraction of platelets, returned in the other arm. It left him immobilized.

“If I had an itch on my nose they would come along and scratch it,” Ray said of the center staff.

Also, when he started the anti-coagulant added to the blood left an aluminum-like taste in his mouth. The additives used today don’t have any after-effects.

Ray feels the act of giving blood simply requires patience. Since he started counting, his patience as of Saturday totaled 309 donations, many of them three units of platelets at a time.

There was no special hoopla as Ray sat back, a tube leading from his right arm to a machine with a spinning dial. He grasped a blue rubber glove filled with warm water. The warmth helps expedite the blood flow. Later in the morning the staff had a cake to celebrate the accomplishment. He received a jacket and his name is on a plaque on a donor chair.

Blood donations haven’t slowed him down. He said he goes about household chores after giving. He also says he has never felt healthier since he started giving. There was a time when he was afflicted by allergies and headaches. That’s no longer a problem, although he can’t say for sure that his routine of giving blood has anything to do with it.

He does make a connection to his faith. Ray is a parishioner at Woodbury Union Church Presbyterian in Conimicut.

“What motivates me is my faith,” he said. “If He can do that,” he said of Jesus dying in the cross, “I can come in every couple of weeks and get an arm pinched.”

Ray is in the company of Jeanne Sylvestre of North Smithfield, Michael Crepeau of North Smithfield, Joe Pailthorpe of Cumberland and Malcolm Grant of Hope Valley, who have each donated more than 100 gallons of blood.

Ray can be counted on for more than blood, although he certainly isn’t recognized when he suited up for the role. Ray plays Santa Claus for the annual Conimicut Village Christmas tree lighting ceremony. There’s no saying how many lives his gift of blood has saved. The Rhode Island Blood Center calculates a single pint of blood can save as many as three lives. Do the math. Two pints to a quart and four quarts to a gallon, times 100 gallons, multiplied by three – that’s 2,400 lives. That’s some Santa.

OVER 100 GALLONS:

Doug Ray says all it takes to be a blood donor and save lives is to be patient. He spends about two hours every couple of weeks at the donor center in Warwick to give three units of platelets. (Warwick Beacon photo)

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