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Brevard man donates more than 100 gallons of blood

Doner gives blood and platelets

Bill Lundell has given more than 100 gallons of blood in the past 28 years. (TIM SHORTT / FLORIDA TODAY)

INDIAN HARBOR BEACH, Fla. – A Brevard county man has donated more than 100 gallons of blood, and he has no plans to quit.

Local 6 News partner Florida Today says William Lundell, 56, of Indian Harbour Beach  started donating in 1987 as part of a wellness program that was being offered by the city of Melbourne, where he worked.

He hit the 100-gallon almost exactly a year ago and has no plans to quit. Assuming that he stays healthy, Lundell easily could hit the 200-gallon mark in the next 25 years.

"I give blood for several reasons," Lundell said last week, a day before he visited the One Blood Center on Babcock Street in Melbourne, where he now donates platelets instead of whole blood. Platelet donation counts double in terms of total volume. Had he donated just platelets since 1987, his total might be 150 gallons or more by now.

"It is a very rare milestone to reach anywhere near 100 gallons," One Blood spokesman Pat Michaels said. "People who give that much are literally career blood donors. They have impacted thousands of lives. Of the nearly half-million people who have donated at One Blood over the last two years, only 50 of them have donated at least 100 gallons or more."

Lundell said one reason he donates is that he is selfish.

"In a good way," said Lundell, who donates platelets 26 times a year. "It's very healthy to give blood."

Some studies indicate that giving blood helps reduce the risk of heart attack and possibly some cancers. And then there is a weight-loss benefit. Donating blood burns calories.

When a person donates blood, the body replaces all the blood volume within 48 hours. It takes four to eight weeks to replace all the red blood after a donation. The University of California in San Diego estimates that for every pint of blood donated, 650 calories are burned as the body goes about replenishing itself.

But it's more than healthy living that inspires Lundell.

Both his parents died of cancer. Then he started meeting children with cancer and learned how valuable blood products are to them as they fight their illness.

One in particular was Talia Joy Castellano of Orlando, who died of cancer on July 16, 2013. Lundell met her at a donor appreciation dinner in 2010. He saw how brave Castellano was and how she was able to manage a smile. It made it clear where his blood was going.

"That was very touching," Lundell said. "Basically, why I give platelets is children with cancer. While I don't have children, children with cancer simply touch me."

In the nearly 30 years that Lundell has been donating, he has seen a lot of societal changes. AIDS and fears of a tainted blood supply changed the system in which donor blood is collected. Most notable to the public is the screening questionnaire that donors are required to fill out before giving. The questions have become more involved and more personal.

One of the most touching moments for Lundell happened on Sept. 11, 2001.

After the terror attacks in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, hundreds of people, in shock and feeling helpless, lined up to donate blood as a way to assist in recovery efforts. Lundell, who had just gotten off work as a water meter reader, was not eligible to donate yet, so he volunteered to answer phones and answer questions that potential donors might have.

One woman who called was an Arab Muslim attending the Florida Institute of Technology. She wanted to give blood but was afraid of the reaction she might receive if her ethnicity was discovered.

"I'll never forget that," Lundell said. "It's one of those things that gets etched in your mind. I told her: 'Try not to be scared. Your blood is just like mine. We're all the same. Blood is blood.' It was so overwhelming on that day, but that person sticks out. She wanted to give back."

He never knew if she came in to donate.

"I hope she did," Lundell said. "I wish I could meet her and find out."