Chula Vista resident Al Conde is one of 35 donors in the San Diego Blood Bank’s database who has reached the century mark, having donated his 100th gallon in April.
Conde has donated blood since the early 1980s.
Conde, 59, said he began donating blood in 1983 and switched to platelets around 1986, He moved to Chula Vista from Clairmont in 1996.
“After my second or third Charger’s blood drive, one of the nurses asked if I had heard about the Super Donor Program,” he said. “It is a procedure where they are taking your whole blood, put it in separator, spin it to separate the products, then give your blood back. So instead of coming back every eight weeks, you can come back every two weeks.”
Conde’s blood donating journey began when a friend of his at work, a Naval engineering business in Clairmont, was about to have heart surgery. Conde said he rounded up everyone at work to supply her account with donations in case she needed any blood products, so it would be covered by the blood bank.
“That was the first time I had ever donated blood,” he said. “Ever since, I was looking to do it every eight weeks, looking for a place, a blood mobile, or just going to the centers. After that I got hooked up with the Charger’s blood drive, and after that it was just platelets at the Upas Street center until they transferred to the Gateway Center on Market Street. I have been there ever since until South Bay opened in the Sears building last year, so I was able to donate at the South Bay center starting last October.”
Conde said he has been “knocking on that door for 100 gallons” for some time. He said when he hit 76 gallons a few years ago, he decided to shoot for the 100 gallon mark. Conde said everyone who can, should try donating blood at least once.
“It is such a super clean environment,” he said. “Even before the pandemic hit, they were always making sure everything was sanitized. Because you are handling blood products, to me it is one of the safest things I have ever done. Just watching the nurses perform and doing the routine. Unless you are just afraid of needles, give it a shot. It is a great way to give back to the community. Whole blood is not a long process. You can donate it in five to 10 minutes. Platelets is a little more involved and takes more than an hour to complete the process. But like I said, this is part of my community service.”
Conde said even with the pandemic, he tells people one of the reasons he gives blood is the additional screening that they give for convalescent plasma.
“If you were exposed to COVID-19 and there are antibodies in your system, you can donate convalescent plasma for other people to help them,” he said. “But I was never exposed. That was one way for me to keep checking if I were exposed. They check my cholesterol, blood pressure, temperature and they keep it on a running tab so I can see historically how I have been doing over the years. My trends, Christmas time and Thanksgiving my cholesterol goes up and after the new year, everything starts to drop again. It is pretty neat to see how they compile that data for me.”
San Diego Blood Bank’s South Bay Donor Center is located at 300 H Street. Appointments are required for blood donations. Visit www.sandiegobloodbank.org