Associate Spotlight – Generosity Runs In The Blood

BSL at Woburn associate’s sights set on donating blood 100 times in as many different cities and towns

Bus driver posing for photo

In 2007, Doug Hastings was vacationing in central Maine when he ran across a Red Cross blood drive. Figuring he had some extra time, the 37-year-old stopped in and rolled up his sleeve.

Somehow though, he missed the part where the nurse told him to gently squeeze the hand roller about every 10 seconds. Instead, he gripped it hard like a stress ball the whole time. His blood pressure dropped, he felt lightheaded, and he passed out.

But Doug is a get-back-on-the-horse type of guy, so after the minimum 56 days, he gave blood again.

Since then, the Burlington, Mass., resident has donated blood every opportunity — more than 80 times so far. In fact, he has a goal in mind: To donate 100 times in 100 different cities and towns in Massachusetts.

12 gallons of blood
A whole-blood donation is one pint. A platelet donation is the equivalent of five pints. After eight visits, the Red Cross sends donors a one-gallon pin thanking them for their gift.

He’s not the only person around who gives blood six times per year.

For Doug, giving blood is more than just the lifesaving donation. Before COVID-19 restrictions, he took his mother along with him for each trip to a different city or town. They’d explore the new place and find a fun spot for lunch. For them it was an adventure, a way to connect with each other and the greater community.

One time at Sacred Heart High School in Kingston, Mass., a teacher gathered students around to ask him about his challenge. A few of them were even inspired to donate themselves. Though he’s not comfortable speaking in public, Doug felt proud to interact with the youth, and wished he’d started giving blood younger.

Tracking success
Early in his 17-year challenge, Doug started keeping a spreadsheet of donations. Looking back, he can remember details from just about every one of them, from Acton to Yarmouth.

He’s donated in towns starting with every available letter of the alphabet. He’s given blood at donation centers, in libraries, churches, schools, mobile trailers, and once at a Bass Pro Shop. On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, he donated in Boston at Fenway Park.

In all that time he said he’s never had a painful jab. He’s also never considered quitting the challenge — though sometimes he wishes the timing window between donations was shorter.

“If you’re chasing any kind of goal, you can’t wait to complete it,” he said. “This just happens to be a 17-year goal.”

But it’s not because he wants it over with. Rather, it’s a subconscious concern that if something bad happens or if he gets sick, he won’t be able to complete the challenge.

“It becomes a reason to stay healthy,” he said. “They check your blood pressure, your iron level … it’s almost like a mini physical a few times a year.”

Adapt and thrive
Doug was a sportswriter for many years until the newspaper industry began to crumble.

When he realized it was time for a change, he decided to find a new career. He had recently spent a lot of time visiting his friend’s father in a nearby nursing home.

It inspired him to apply for a position with Benchmark Senior Living at Woburn and he took a job as a server in the dining room. It didn’t take long for him to fall in love with the place and the residents. Eventually he was splitting his time between the dining room, the front desk, and driving one of the vans, shuttling residents to various places.

Like the blood drives, the job embodies adventure and camaraderie. And just like his new career, he doesn’t see himself quitting the drives any time soon.

“When I hit a hundred,” he said. “I can’t just stop.”

He began his 100 Massachusetts donations in his father’s hometown of Woburn. He’s planning to finish his final one in Chelsea, where his mother grew up.

After that he’s hoping to donate blood in all 50 states.

“I look forward to blood drives,” he laughs. “Already, I can’t wait for the next one.”

Man posing for photo on bench outdoors