DAYTON, Ohio – Wendell Clark and Bert Jones are true “Brothers in Arms” because of their relentless dedication to extending an arm and giving blood. They are Community Blood Center’s top two donors and have combined for 1,168 lifetime donations. Yet until a chance visit to the Dayton Donor Center during Christmas week, the two had never met.
Wendell’s situation is unique. He’s been CBC’s top active donor since 2010. He made his milestone 600th lifetime donation on Oct. 24, 2013 and a few weeks later became CBC’s “Top Donor of All Time” with his 602nd lifetime donation on Nov. 14, 2013.
Wendell steamed ahead, reaching 608 lifetime donations in January of 2014. Then suddenly his donation record became frozen in place as he faced a winter of uncertainty. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
As a well-known advocate for blood donations, Wendell has appeared often in newspaper and TV news stories. He once threw out the first pitch at a Dayton Dragons game and was honored as a community hero. He doesn’t mind speaking publicly about how the change in his health impacted his donating.
“The prostate test came back positive, and the first thing that went through my mind was, I can’t donate,” he said. That is a special dedication. His first thought was not about his health, his chances, or his fear when faced with the “C-word” cancer. Instead he thought about donating.
He has battled the illness extremely well and is making a full recovery, but his concern about donating was correct. He underwent successful surgery and completed therapy, and then entered a two-year deferral period. With no reoccurrence of the disease, he’ll be able to resume donating in March. “It’s a Saturday,” he said. “It will be my first donation in two years. I did write down the date.”
Wendell can remember once meeting CBC’s former top donor Larry Hardy. But it was only recently that he met Bert Jones, the man who had quietly taken over Wendell’s role as CBC’s top “active” donor.
Bert was making his 559th lifetime donation when Wendell stopped by to visit CBC staff on Dec. 22, 2015. (Bert has since begun the New Year with his 560th donation). It was a meeting of titans, and you could say rivals. But they are both low-key, unassuming men with much in common.
Both are platelet and plasma donors, both are CMV-negative “baby donors” (negative for the Cytomegalovirus virus), and both donate exclusively at the Dayton Donor Center.
How after 1,168 donations they never met is like ships passing in the night. Bert lives in Dayton, is retired, and usually donates in the morning. Wendell lives in Eaton, and his routine was to go straight from work to donate at CBC before closing.
Bert began donating platelets in the 1980’s and is proud to say he was the first CBC donor to complete a full schedule of 24 apheresis donations in one year. Bert and his wife Judy lost their daughter Cari to cancer four years ago. She was just 37 years old and a mother of two. “I was already donating platelets, which cancer patients need,” he said. “But that made it even more important.”
Wendell’s first thought about donating when diagnosed with cancer struck a note with Bert. He had the same though after undergoing surgery about four years ago. “At some point the doctor said, ‘You know you can’t donate blood,’” he said. “I said, ‘You don’t understand. It is important to me.’ He said, ‘OK, but you can only give platelets.’”
Spoken like a true “Brother in Arms.” Wendell and Bert are ever ready to overcome obstacles, even “negotiate” with their physicians, if it means remaining faithful to their common cause – donating for others, and donating like no others.