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Webster's an 'early bird' in the blood-giving habit

Dan Webster's a senior at Ellsworth High School, and already he's a veteran blood donor.

Webster won't attend the American Red Cross Bloodmobile's visit to Zion Covenant Church in Ellsworth on Monday, Jan. 8, but it's not because he isn't a regular giver. It's due to him having been a double-red cell donor the last time.

"You have to wait twice as long as normal before you can give again," he said about that situation Friday, indicating donating can usually be done as often as every other month and figuring he'll resume when the bloodmobile comes to EHS in March.

The local native explained double-red cell donors are needed to help chemotherapy patients. They have to have a certain blood type (his is O-positive) and weigh more than the average requirement for giving blood (he weighs 160 pounds). The actual donation for these participants takes up to 45 minutes, as compared to as little as five minutes otherwise.

"They hook you up to a machine," he said.

Regular donors must be at least 17-years-old, so Webster only had five entries on his donor card as of last week. He said he started donating when he was a junior, encouraged by the convenience of having the bloodmobile visit his school.

"The first time may be the're nervous," he remembered, though any reluctance was quickly overcome in his case.

First-timers are placed flat on a cot while their blood's being collected in the event they feel faint, he said. Afterward, they're escorted from the cot and told to "go real slow." Although he's seen some donors pass out, he hasn't experienced any problems himself.

"I don't feel the effects that much," he said.

Besides, when the giving's done, there's cookies and all kinds of sweets to look forward to, along with lots of fluids, he said. He's been to bloodmobile visits at both EHS and Zion, and Red Cross and other personnel at both places have all been nice to the donors.

The overall donation process begins with going to a concealed booth and being asked questions about health history and the like, Webster said, noting lately this has been accomplished on computers. Early on, a finger is pricked for a blood sample. The sample's put into a machine that whirls it around and helps determine whether there's enough iron in the blood to be suitable for giving.

"It's a dull pain, but not bad," he said about that finger-stick, describing the needle going into an arm for the actual collection similarly. "The pain goes away right away," he added.

The son of Charlie and Kris Webster who has a sister, Liz, in Baldwin said he's the only one in his family to donate regularly. A former cross-country team member at EHS, he enjoys math and shop classes there. He especially favors metal work, welding and torching metal, and using lathes and mills.

"I like forming metal," he said, envisioning a possible future career in metal fabrication.

Meantime, he does repairs at home, he said. He has two Ranger trucks he's made run better. He's also in the work release program at EHS, laboring at Victory Fireworks in Ellsworth, loading containers from China onto pallets and driving a fork lift. His present classes in school include advanced math, agricultural mechanics and American problems, an economics course.