Tom Taylor has been a blood donor since before MD Anderson had a computer system to keep records on the matter.
The records of MD Anderson Blood Bankdo indicate that Tom has donated over 75 times, though that’s nowhere near the actual number. When his mother died of leukemia in the late 1950s, he became determined to help however he could. He wanted to give back in some way.
“It wasn’t too complicated, and before I knew it, I was doing it as a regular thing,” Tom says of donating blood. “I’ve always wanted to help other people, and this was a simple way for me to do it.”
Donating blood becomes a routine
He began donating on a schedule in 1961, visiting MD Anderson Blood Bank near Holcombe Blvd. and Fannin St. during his lunch break as an administrator at Houston’s downtown Foley’s store.
“When I started doing it on a routine basis, honestly, it felt like a bit of a break, a little ‘me’ time in the middle of the day,” he says.
Tom switched back and forth between giving red blood cells and whole blood. In the mid-1970s he could do this every 60 days. But as technology and medical knowledge have progressed, and as he has gotten older, he now only gives whole blood every three or four months.
Donors who are in good health and meet all the standard requirements can give whole blood every 56 days, platelets once every seven days, platelets and red blood cells together every 56 days (eight weeks), and double red blood cells every 112 days (16 weeks).
Tom knows MD Anderson’s cancer patients need around 200 units of red blood cells and 600 units of platelets every day. He also knows that there can sometimes be certain limitations regarding international travel or various health conditions.
After having a heart attack aboard a cruise ship in 2015, he took his longest break from giving. He underwent an angioplasty and had a stent placed, thankfully making a full recovery.
“I was lucky. Obviously, I had to take some time off, but when I was cleared, I got right back to it,” Tom says.
Blood donations make a life-changing impact
Tom says his 17 MD Anderson blood donor T-shirts make up the majority of his wardrobe these days, noting that some likely have “gone missing” over the last 60 years. He laughs about the free shirts, pajamas, cheese and crackers, and various other treats he enjoys taking home or snacking on after “lying down and doing nothing for 15 or 20 minutes.”
“But on a philosophical basis, I’ve done something that is a life-changing benefit to somebody. That’s pretty incredible to know,” he says. “I think I had this initial sympathy because cancer is how my mother died, but I’m delighted to have had any kind of positive impact or recruit others to this noble cause.”
No matter what major events are going on in his life, Tom makes time to donate, especially during the summer and around the holiday season toward the end of the year, when fewer people tend to donate blood.
“I always make an extra effort to go when the need is great,” he says. “Cancer doesn’t take breaks. Plus, I know the folks would miss me and my favorite joke: I’ve got the best blood you can get – A+!”