Tom Germond of Largo donates platelets – and his 100th gallon of blood – recently at the OneBlood donation center in Clearwater. OneBlood spokesman Dan Eberts said there are probably only about 40 people in the Tampa Bay area who have reached the 100-gallon milestone.
LARGO – As executive editor of Tampa Bay Newspapers, Tom Germond has interviewed and written stories about many Pinellas County residents who have made the world a better place for their neighbors, including several lifesaving heroes.
What those people didn’t know was they were speaking with one themselves.
Germond, 63, of Largo, who has likely saved hundreds of lives as a result of his decades of blood donations, reached the 100-gallon mark Aug. 19 when he performed his bimonthly duty of giving platelets.
“I never dreamed when I first started donating blood that I would reach that amount,” he said. “I don’t think anyone does, but there are some people who do even more.”
Not many, according to OneBlood spokesman Dan Eberts.
“It takes a lifetime commitment to get to that level,” he said.
Eberts said there are probably only about 40 people in the Tampa Bay area who have reached the 100-gallon milestone.
“A very, very, very small minority give blood at all for the majority, and there’s an even smaller minority that have reached that level of giving,” he said. “It’s a very small group of special hometown heroes.”
To put the milestone into context, a whole blood donation involves drawing 1 pint of blood. With 8 pints in a gallon, a donor would have to give blood every day for more than two years to reach 100 gallons.
Whole blood donors, however, can only give blood every eight weeks. Platelet donors, such as Germond, can donate every two weeks, but the process typically takes one to two hours so donors receive credits for two pints.
“You’re looking at at least 10 years to reach 60 gallons, and that’s assuming everything goes right and you never miss one,” Eberts said. “That typically doesn’t happen.”
It has taken regular donations since 1985 for Germond to reach the mark.
In his blood
It was in the early 1970s, however, when his father first introduced him to the idea of giving blood.
Germond, who was in his early 20s, found out his father had donated about 5 gallons, so he decided to give it a try.
“I did it once and said this isn’t too bad,” he said. “I’ll have to do it again.”
College and career sidetracked Germond, so it wasn’t until 1985 that he would once again follow his father’s path, who was still donating.
That’s when he started donating whole blood every two months at a modest trailer operated by one technician at the rodeo grounds in Kissimmee.
In 1993, a phlebotomist said he had good veins and suggested he give platelets, which help the blood clot and are commonly given to those recovering from surgeries and cancer patients.
The thought of helping cancer patients struck a soft spot in Germond.
“My dad died of cancer in 1992, and I realized platelets are vital for people who suffer from cancers and traumatic accidents,” he said. “Considering my dad had cancer, I said I’m going to do this as much as possible and as long as they tell me I can.”
From that point on, he donated every two months. He moved to Pinellas County in 2004 and has been donating at the OneBlood center on Missouri Avenue every two or three weeks since 2005.
Though Germond has remained silent about his efforts, his commitment hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Over the nearly 30 years we have worked together, it has been amazing to watch and observe his dedication in maintaining his regular contributions,” said Dan Autrey, publisher of Tampa Bay Newspapers. “Contributing your own lifeblood for decades, what an incredible act of selfless humanity.”
Value of donating
Germond displays that selflessness when speaking about the importance of donating.
As a longtime journalist, he has written and read about numerous people who have been saved by the generosity of donors.
“If every donor would give one more time a year, there would be no blood shortages,” he said.
That was evident in 2016 when a gunman killed 49 people after opening fire at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
“With the Pulse shooting, we had thousands and thousands of people who came out and waited hours to donate,” Eberts said. “Most of them never came back. The backbone of the community blood supply is your regular repeat donor. The person who makes that part a committed responsibility to make sure blood is available at all times.”
Eberts said the silent heroes of that shooting were the people who gave two and three days before that tragedy.
People like Germond, who hopes his 100-gallon accomplishment will inspire others to also become silent heroes.
“If I found out one person who was a donor read the story and said, ‘Oh, gee, that’s something I need to do again,’ that would make my day,” he said. “If a person who had never given before, gave one time, that would make my week. If that same donor would do it regularly, that’d make my year.”
A reward in itself
Germond even put aside his own nagging health problems so that he could continue to donate.
A couple of years ago a doctor told him that he needed to start a medication that would disqualify him from giving blood. Germond’s biggest question at the time, however, was how long he could hold off on taking it so that he could continue donating.
“Right then I said I was going to donate as much as I can, so I increased my contributions,” he said.
Now that he has reached the 100-gallon mark, Germond said he’s come to the sad conclusion that it’s probably time to start the medication.
With the extra time, he said he might do some volunteering and try to be ambassador for the blood bank.
“I understand that people can be squeamish or skittish about needles, but I would ask someone who’s thinking about trying it to at least try it,” he said. “They might find out that it’s one of, if not the most, rewarding things they’ve done to help other people.”
Eberts echoed that thought by recalling a police officer in California who was hit by a drunken driver and needed over 100 units of blood and nine surgeries.
“He said when you give blood you don’t just save lives, you save families,” Eberts said. “That’s part of the message I want people to hear about Tom. Tom is making sure blood is there and platelets are there at all times. He’s saving lives and families.”
Chris George is editor of the Largo Leader. He can be reached at 727-397-5563, ext. 316, or by email at cgeorge@TBNweekly.com.
OneBlood donation centers
• Palm Harbor, 33825 U.S. 19 N., 727-568-1179
• St. Petersburg, 9900 Dr. MLK Jr. St. N., 727-568-2101; 6808 22nd Ave. N., 727-384-4145
• Clearwater, 1680 S. Missouri Ave., 727-582-9500
Upcoming blood drives
Select Walmart stores will host the Big Red Bus where donors can give blood and receive a $10 Walmart gift card. The blood drive will take place Monday, Sept. 4, 1 to 6 p.m.; and Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2 and 7 p.m.
Participating stores include:
• 990 Missouri Ave., Largo • 23106 U.S. 19 N., Clearwater • 2677 Roosevelt Blvd., Clearwater • 2171 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., Clearwater • 10238 Bay Pines Blvd., St Petersburg • 2102 Main St., Dunedin
To make an appointment, visit oneblood.org/Walmart or call 888-936-6283. Appointments will be honored and walk-ins are welcome.
All donors receive a wellness checkup of blood pressure, pulse, temperature and iron count, including a cholesterol screening. Generally healthy people age 16 or older who weigh at least 110 pounds can donate blood. Photo ID is required.