Just about every month, Robert Verbeck makes his way to Stony Brook University Hospital.
He’s usually coming from his 5th grade teaching job at Wading River Elementary School — or his home in Sayville.
After navigating through the busy parking lot, he walks through the lobby and veers toward the back of the first floor. The blood bank is his destination.
Like clockwork, he flaps the doors open and is immediately welcomed with familiar, smiling faces.
“Hey Rob, it’s so nice to see you,” the nurses will typically say. “How are the kids?”
As Verbeck talks about his two adult sons, the nurses will prompt him for his platelet donation. Over the last 10-plus years, the 53-year-old has made over 100.
It’s 114 to be exact, which is a lot considering you can only donate up to 24 times a year.
“They make you feel like you are saving the world,” Verbeck told GreaterPortJeff this past week.
“But you are,” interrupted Linda Pugliese, Stony Brook’s donor recruiter.
Platelets are used to form clots and stop bleeding — which are especially useful for individuals who are going through surgeries, explained Dr. Tahmeena Ahmed.
“We use them for cancer patients, trauma patients, people who have cardiac surgery; lots of different things,” said Dr. Ahmed.
But the trauma and cancer centers are so busy, there is a shortage.
“We never have enough donated platelets or blood,” she said. “We have to outside of the blood bank [for more].”
The donation takes upwards of 2 and 1/2 hours to complete. But that doesn’t bother Verbeck, because he catches up with reading, but it deters others, says Pugliese.
“The donation process is a little longer,” she said, “So people aren’t as willing to come in donate.”
But it is a painless and routine process.
“It takes blood out, spins the platelets and returns the blood back to the person,” said Dr. Lisa Senzel, describing the process.
With a short shelf life of 5 days, Verbeck knows his donations matter.
That’s why he does it.
He started after a close friend of his named Nancy was diagnosed with cancer. She was living in Denver and relied heavily on platelet donations from people she didn’t know personally.
“It was the idea that there are strangers out there helping her,” he said. “So I can be here and help out strangers.”
Verbeck was familiar with Stony Brook’s blood bank, having a father who regularly donated platelets there.
Verbeck’s father, a retired NYPD cop who donated over 100 times himself also did it to help his community.
“That was just the type of guy he was,” said Verbeck. “Always helping people out.”
Now every time Verbeck donates, he thinks of his late dad and longtime friend.
“It took me to have a personal connection to push me over the edge [to donate],” he said. “I think a lot of people don’t realize they do know someone… almost everyone knows someone battling cancer.”
You can donate platelets and blood at Stony Brook’s Blook Bank. To do so, you must schedule an appointment beforehand. Click here for more information.
Top: Robert Verbeck getting prepped for his 114th platelet donation. (Credit: Nicholas Esposito)