Last month, 86-year-old Iron Station resident Graham Caskey donated his 100th pint of blood to the Lincoln County chapter of the American Red Cross.
“There is no upper age limit for blood donors,” LouAnn Freshour, local Red Cross program support specialist told the Times-News. “As long as you are in good health and can pass the requirements of donating blood, you can be a blood donor.”
Caskey achieved the unique accomplishment Feb. 13 at an area Baptist church, he said.
The World War II veteran, and former Navy Seabee, donated his blood several times before he started tracking it, his first recorded blood drive being the Red Cross drive at the James W. Warren Citizens Center in the 1980s, shortly after the facility was erected.
At the time, Caskey was serving as a county maintenance worker and felt slightly obligated to give blood, even though he was initially hesitant, believing his high blood pressure and cholesterol wouldn’t make him a viable donor.
“I knew people would be asking me if I had given blood,” he said.
It wasn’t long before donating blood became his hobby, and he tried to donate as often as the Red Cross would allow an individual—every 56 days.
“I gave blood at just about every church in the county,” he laughed.
Caskey hoped others in the community would follow in his footsteps after hearing his story.
“Someone else might want to do the same,” he said.
Despite his extraordinary feat, he claims other people whom he’s met at local drives have donated even more pints than him over the years.
Red Cross volunteer and instructor Jim Johnston believed otherwise.
“I think it’s pretty rare,” he said. “(100 pints) is quite a bit of blood.”
Johnston, a retired 25-year veteran of the organization, said Caskey stops by the Lincoln County facility at least once a week to chat with workers and keep up with the dates and times of upcoming drives.
He also mentioned that while O-negative is the most coveted blood type, blood centers also seek Caskey’s blood type — B-negative.
“It’s a rarer type,” Johnston said, adding that it’s always better for a person to receive his or her own blood type, if it’s available, instead of the universal blood type.
According to statistics from the Lincoln County Red Cross chapter, the organization as a whole seeks more than 40,000 blood donations each year to administer to cancer patients, accident victims and children with blood disorders. Unfortunately, in several cases, certain weather-related incidents and other impediments force organization officials to cancel drives.
“These patients and others rely on blood donors to donate so that blood products are available during their treatment,” Freshour said. “It is important for people like Graham who are healthy to donate blood for (such people’s) treatment.”
In addition, blood can’t be preserved, thus, always giving it a high-demand status.
“Because blood has an expiration date,” Johnston said, “you always want to have some of it around.”
Blood has particularly been in high demand in Lincoln County for the last few years due to the poor state of the economy, which Red Cross officials said directly impacts donation numbers.
“When the economy goes down, blood goes down,” Johnston said. “It’s typical.”
Caskey revealed he has no plans to stop giving blood any time soon and has never had a bad experience with a needle, something he said too many people fear.
“It don’t hurt,” he said. “It’s just a little sting to begin with.”
For more information on the Lincoln County chapter of the American Red Cross, located at 527 N. Aspen St. in Lincolnton, visit redcross.org/nc/Lincolnton or call (704) 735-3500.