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Fleming Island’s Kamradt: Donating 100 gallons of blood ‘was my duty as a Marine’

Russ Kamradt For Clay Today
Posted 11/22/23

Russ Kamradt is joined by two Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleaders and his wife, Kathy, as he donates his 100th gallon of blood. Kamradt was honored during last week’s ceremony at the TEALgate Blood Drive …

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Fleming Island’s Kamradt: Donating 100 gallons of blood ‘was my duty as a Marine’


Posted

Russ Kamradt is joined by two Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleaders and his wife, Kathy, as he donates his 100th gallon of blood. Kamradt was honored during last week’s ceremony at the TEALgate Blood Drive at EverBank Stadium.

I started donating whole blood in Marine Corps boot camp when I was 17 years old. One day, my [drill instructor] asked, “All those that want to donate blood, take one step forward.” Fearing needles since my childhood, I remained still for a few moments until the DI was yelling in my face. He was so loud that I thought my ear drums were going to burst. That is when I opened my eyes to see that I was the only one standing there. He repeated that message, “I said ALL those that want to donate blood take one step forward.”

I leaped forward.

After that, I continued donating, not thinking how my donation could possibly save a life. I just felt it was my duty as a Marine. After my four years of active duty, I did not have blood donation on my radar until I met my wife. We were at church when I was asked to stand if I was willing to donate blood after services. I looked at my wife and did not want her to think that her Marine was afraid to donate, so I stood up and found myself donating often again. After several years, I was asked if I would sign up to be a bone marrow donor. I was told that the odds that I would be a match were exceedingly rare.

To my surprise, a few years later, I was notified that I was a match. I was assigned a special ID number for my platelet donation to go directly to that person. At that time, the procedure took more than two hours with needles in both arms. I could not move during that time. Even if my face itched, someone else had to scratch it for me. Once, I asked at the donors office what was next. They checked the patient’s condition and told me that she still needed my platelets. Later I would have to go through additional testing. The clerk slipped by, saying she, as I am not supposed to know any facts about who that person is. Knowing it was a female, I often thought it could be someone’s wife or young daughter like ours. That helped me continue as frequently as possible. I went so often that I had memorized that ID number.

Over the years, I had my downtime donating, mostly because of four major surgeries, including the removal of one of my kidneys and later the time for recovery from cancer. In addition, my deployments with the Red Cross on over 20 disasters and two international deployments for three months each interfered with my donating schedules. To God be the Glory, as He kept me healthy and able to donate platelets nearly twice a month for years.

Once, I had a special experience while donating platelets. A woman came into our center with her young son. He was handing out something to the platelet donors. I did not hear the little boy’s words as he handed me a burnt cookie. His mother told me that her son wanted to thank all the platelet donors for saving his life. He was in remission from Leukemia and made the cookies himself. She added she was sorry that some came out burnt. I thanked him and told him I loved burnt cookies and that it was the best cookie I ever ate. He then hugged me, and “sweat” came from my eyes.

Reaching 100 gallons is an honor, and I am grateful to Jesus for giving me the passion to help others most of my life. Ask any donor, and most will tell you it is not about the amount of donations but about trying to help someone live longer. Donating many times or just the first time could be the time you saved a life. I am grateful to the Lord for helping me stay healthy enough to serve others, and I hope the attention I have shared will encourage others to donate.

If you are unable to donate blood, you can still make a difference in someone’s life. There are many organizations where you could donate your time. If this is your first time looking to volunteer, I suggest starting with your church, and to your surprise, the difference could be with you. If you need help, you can always find me on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. at Trinity Community Church, 6865 Pine Ave. on Fleming Island.