DAYTON, Ohio – Retired U.S. Air Force Captain Larry Lapuh has a 20-year history with Community Blood Center (CBC) that began one day with a special phone call and continued through the milestone 400th lifetime blood donation he made Thursday, Feb. 21 at the downtown Dayton branch.
Larry is a long distance runner in every sense. He keeps a steady pace, stays the course, and keeps driving toward the finish line of every new challenge. He has run 19 marathons, including the Air Force Marathon, hosted by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where he worked in supply and budgeting from his arrival in 1985 to retirement in 1995. His marathoner mentality shows both in the way exercise keeps him lean and fit (you would never guess that he’ll turn 60 in March) and in his sense of duty as a donor toward helping save lives.
Only once did the dual dedications seem at odds, and it was back at the very beginning of the new journey that set him on the path toward the 400 LTD milestone. “Every time I come down here,” he says during his pre-donation ritual of juice and cookies, “I tell everyone you can thank Marilyn (Automated Donor Relations Specialist Marilyn Staker) – or you can blame her!”
Larry was tested for his potential as a bone marrow donor in 1992 while still on active duty in the Air Force. Marilyn became aware of his candidacy by way of the National Bone Marrow Registry and contacted him. (More information is available at “Be the Match” marrow registry www.marrow.org).
Larry retired in 1994 and that year became one of CBC’s first bone marrow donors. Part of his sacrifice was that his doctors warned him that he must give up running until he recovered. “He told us he had a plan where he would walk instead,” recalled Marilyn. “He wanted to walk 10 miles, and he tried, but the pain was too much and he had to stop.”
Larry was already a blood donor. He began “right out of high school” and continued in the military. But the bone marrow donation experience, combined with more free time after retirement, inspired him to do more. After his six-month recovery period ended, he became a blood donor with CBC.
“I started coming down here to donate whole blood,” he said. “Then later they asked me about apheresis. I had never heard of it.”
His first apheresis donation was in 1995 and Larry was soon setting a relentless pace. His goal became to average 25 donations a year (the allowed 24 platelet donations per year, plus a plasma donation). He soon knew all the apheresis collections staff, and credited Training Coordinator Paula Baker for getting him the upright chair he uses during donations that helps him avoid cramping. And he values his 20-year friendship with Marilyn that began with that first phone call.
“Don’t thank me,” he said, “Thank her. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be coming down here.”
The last marathon Larry ran was in 2008. “I’d still like to do another one,” he said, “but the older I get, the lazier I get! But I still run.”
His steady training and his donation legacy continue to be his passions. “It’s like running,” he said as he made his 400th donation, pacing the blood flow with gentle squeezes between his finger and thumb. “It’s the right thing to do, so you do it. I don’t want to call it a ‘lifestyle,’ but if there’s something you know you can do, then you do it.”