It ended with little celebration or ceremony.
Al Whitney plopped into a padded chair beside the machine that would draw his blood, separate out the platelets, and return the rest. He made a few jokes. A woman slid a needle into his arm.
“Ooh, we’ve got a gusher,” he joked, as his blood began to flow.
The machine, at United Blood Services in Casper, started up. And with that, Whitney’s five-year mission was complete. He had donated platelets in Wyoming, the last of 50 states.
Not that he was too excited about the accomplishment.
“It’s a milestone, right,” he finally acknowledged. “But it’s not the end of my journey.”
The journey began in the fall of 2007 in Erie, Pa. The 75-year-old Ohio man had already devoted much of his life to giving blood. He had donated more times than he could count, and organized hundreds of blood drives.
Feeling the urge to do more, he started his 50-state journey, hoping to inspire others to help.
“When you do, you give somebody another birthday,” he said, as he waited for the machine to complete its work. “You help a father walk his daughter down the aisle.”
There’s no age limit on donation, and Whitney has no plans to quit giving blood until someone makes him.
“That my biggest fear, the day they tell me I can’t donate anymore,” he said. “It will be very traumatic. I don’t want to think about it.”