By Oscar Wolfe
When you think of charity you probably think of giving money, food, or volunteering. My dad’s cousin, Brett Crystal, does it a little differently. Blood. I don’t mean he donates annually or something. He donates as much as he possibly can. He’s shooting for the world record. He is currently at 201 donations. Brett also works for the Red Cross in Nashville, Tenn. as a blood services account manager, which means he helps to set up blood drives. I decided to ask him a few questions because I think he’s pretty great, and I bet you will too.
When did you start donating blood and why?
I didn’t think I could donate because I have diabetes. We had a blood drive in my high school, and I was told I couldn’t donate. So I got involved in a lot of fundraising for diabetes and cancer. I felt a lot of pride in raising awareness for those diseases. When I was 19, the Red Cross set up a table next to where I was doing fundraising. I went over asking for money, and found out I was able to donate blood! I set my appointment for the very next day and fell in love with it. You don’t have to ask for money, it takes less than an hour and unlike fundraising, where it usually takes a while for your dollar to reach someone, your blood goes directly to someone in need. I decided to make it a lifelong goal to break the world record.
So what is the world record?
The highest number I’ve seen so far is 1,200. You can donate blood as often as once every eight weeks, or six times per year. But you can donate platelets and plasma up to 24 time per year, so I’ve started doing that to catch up. I figure it will take me about 50 more years of donating to reach the world record. So I have to stay healthy for a long time and keep donating regularly!
Do you know if you have competition for world record?
There are a lot of donors with high numbers. In the Tennessee area, I recently became highest donor among Red Cross employees, but that’s only because the person who previously had the highest record retired! He had somewhere around 540 donations.
What’s your blood type?
AB Positive—it’s one of the rare blood types, which is kind of disappointing. For red blood, I’m only able to help people with the same blood type. But the other parts of my blood—the platelets and plasma—can go to everyone.
Hey, my dad just showed me his Red Cross card—he also has AB positive!
Awesome! We can support each other.
How old do you have to be to donate blood?
Seventeen. But many states will allow you to donate at 15 with parental consent.
Do you ever get scared?
I used to be really scared of big needles, but you get used to it. Even as much as I’ve done it, I actually don’t watch. Last time I looked, I got a little light headed!
What is your favorite snack after a blood donation?
Chocolate chip cookies. That’s definitely one of my favorite parts.
When did you decide to make blood donations a job?
I wanted to get involved in the Red Cross for long time because I was donating so often. I applied for several things, but I didn’t really know what I could do for them. They eventually called me for a position to draw blood. I went through all the training and did that for about a year. Then got into the position I’m in now. Instead of drawing blood, I get to talk about it. And that’s where my passion is. I get to hopefully get people as excited about donating blood as I am.
I’d much rather talk about the blood than draw it! Why is it so important to donate blood?
Unlike all other types of medication, there is no replacement for blood. We can’t manufacture it. It only comes from people who donate blood. The blood supply is kind of like the supply of milk in the grocery store—it expires very quickly, and constantly needs to be replenished. After drawing, it takes 2 days for testing and processing. You don’t know who you’re helping, but someone is waiting for your blood to be there in their time of need. It’s a very powerful thing you can do for other people.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to donate blood, or just do something great?
For people interested in idea of blood donations, you don’t have to even donate to make a difference. I work with people who host blood drives that bring in as much blood in a day as I’ve been able to donate in 15 years. On a smaller scale, you could sit with someone who is anxious about donating blood. Keep them company and keep their mind off the process.
If there’s something that really strikes a chord with you and you can find a way to give back by doing that, it’s extremely powerful. I fell in love with donating blood and I’ve been able to turn that into a career. It’s a great thing to do what you love and share that with other people.
Learn more about great ways to help the Red Cross.