Local man saves lives by donating blood
By Chris Fish
ROCKLEDGE - Once every other week, George Soper receives his "therapy," while lying in a chair with a needle in his arm.
"You know the feeling you get when someone is struggling with a (flat) tire on the side of the road, and you help them? It's not the appreciation they express but the inner feeling of knowing you helped someone that makes you feel better," said Mr. Soper, a Rockledge resident and a retired physics teacher from Satellite High School. "That, to me, is really powerful."
Mr. Soper has donated more than 110 gallons of blood, the equivalent to two 55-gallon drums, in his lifetime, which has the ability to single-handedly save more than 2,400 lives.
On July 19, at the Central Florida Blood Bank in Rockledge, Mr. Soper donated his first pint of blood since he achieved his 110-gallon donation earlier this month.
"They are really wonderful here at (Central Florida Blood Bank)," he said. "When they stick a needle in your arm, you don't feel any pain."
Mr. Soper started donating blood in the navy and has continued to donate his blood and platelets - cells that are crucial for the survival of cancer patients - to the Rockledge bank for more than 20 years.
The donations of platelets usually take around two hours to complete.
"(Platelets are) used by cancer patients to sustain life. Chemotherapy depletes the body of platelets," said Pat Michaels, executive director of public relations at Florida Blood Centers. "George Soper is an angel."
To extract platelets, the blood center uses an apheresis machine, a device that separates the platelets, returning the blood to the body.
Despite taking two hours, Mr. Soper still donates platelets twice a month.
"I'm fortunate enough to have it, and people need it," Mr. Soper said. "I am of the belief that, if you have something, you have to share it. Blood is not something that is stockpiled. There is always a need."
Mr. Michaels also expressed the importance of donating blood.
"Most people cannot possibly begin to grasp how important donating blood is. We process blood very quickly. We only keep it for so long," he said. "Every donation goes to a local hospital (to aid) cancer patients, routine surgery patients, those involved in a terrible accident and babies who need sugar, to name a few. A lot goes into this."
Christal Boyd, the branch manager of the Central Florida Blood Bank in Rockledge, agreed with Mr. Soper and Mr. Michaels about the importance of donating blood.
"Even if you are a first-time donor, we greatly appreciate it. It takes a lot to walk through the door," she said. "At the end of the day, what (donors) come in here to do is really important because it saves someone's life. It's a very simple process."
Not only does donating blood save lives, Mr. Michaels said it has saved donor's lives, too.
"We've had people come in here and donate, and we will notice an irregularity with their blood that they were not even aware of," he said. "A woman had early signs of leukemia that we were able to catch early on and treat."
Despite his recent fame after his 110-gallon donation, Mr. Soper said he will continue to donate and doesn't let all of the attention go to his head.
"I don't think it's really a big deal, but, if it gets more people to (think about donating blood), it's worth it," he said. "I don't think people should talk you in and out of donating. If you really want to do it, roll up your sleeves and give."