Gene Joyce, platelet donor extraordinaire

Janine Volkmar
Mad River Union

ARCATA – Gene Joyce, owner of Arcata Exchange on the Plaza, has been giving blood for over 30 years.

“I’m pushing 36 gallons,” he said. To put that in perspective: the average adult human body contains from 1.2 to 1.5 gallons of blood, so that’s 24 to 30 times the amount of blood in his body!

Gene Joyce

Gene Joyce

But what he’s really good at is giving platelets.

“You can give platelets 24 times a year,” he said, noting that platelets get a credit for three gallons.

“Platelets are currently the most needed,” said John Gullam, director of Donor Services at the Northern California Community Blood Bank.

‘We appreciate Gene for a couple of reasons. One, he’s a very regular donor and has donated for years. The other is that he donates platelets,” Gullam explained. “They are increasing in need and there are many new uses for platelets – new kinds of treatments.”

Although donating platelets takes longer (“You’re in the chair for two to two-and-a-half hours,” said Joyce) it may be “less stressful than giving whole blood,” according to Joyce.

“When you donate whole blood, you are using one pint of fluid,” Joyce said. “In platelets, they replace with a saline solution, so you don’t lose fluid.”

Joyce started giving blood at his high school blood drive.

“You got out of class and it was a cool thing to do,” he remembered.

And he had a more personal reason.

“My mom had open heart surgery in the late ’50s. She used 13 units of blood in her surgery. At first I said I want to make it to one gallon. Then I said I want to match what my mom needed. Then I said, ‘why stop?’ ”

Joyce is in demand for another reason than his consistent generosity.

“I have a nice high platelet count,” he said. “They like me for that. There’s a lot of us who are double strength donors.”

Platelets, according to Joyce, are good for healing, for burn victims and for open heart surgery patients. “They are always in demand,” he said

For a while, Joyce was matched up with a young person in Fortuna who was waiting for a transplant. Even though the young man was receiving Joyce’s platelets, “they don’t allow people to know who the donors or recipients are.”  But after the young man died, Joyce got “a nice letter from the family” thanking him.

Giving platelets does take longer, but donors can bring their own electronic devices to listen to music or watch movies during the process.

Joyce works his platelet schedule around Arts! Arcata. “Since we are open late in the evening, it makes it easy to go down early in the day to donate,” he said.

Now that’s a fair exchange!

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