HOMETOWN HEROES: Firefighter Thomas Johnson has literally given his lifeblood to this city 14 times over as regular blood donor
Firefighter Thomas Johnson has given every ounce of himself to the city — and then some.
The big-hearted 15-year FDNY veteran has donated more than 70 liters of blood to the New York Blood Center over the years, officials said.
With the average body containing just five liters of blood — about 1.3 gallons — Johnson has donated his entire supply fourteen times over.
And the smoke eater, who is currently assigned to the FDNY’s Marine Unit 9 in Staten Island, plans to keep on pumping out as many pints as he can.
“I guess I consider myself a firefighter for others,” Johnson, 41, told the Daily News. “Just being able to help people in this respect. I think that’s the most important part.”
Johnson’s amazing generosity has been noticed. In honor of his altruism, the FDNY has nominated the firefighter, who is currently assigned as an engineering room assistant on one of the biggest fire boats in the department’s marine fleet, for a Daily News Hometown Heroes award.
“No one’s ever called me a hero before,” Johnson said, a wide grin erupting across his face. “Being a firefighter is a full-time job. It’s more of a lifestyle … it’s an all-the-time thing.”
Johnson has the FDNY to thank for his altruism. Before joining the department, he assisted in soup kitchens and helped a random charity or two, but he never gave blood until he entered the academy and was encouraged to donate and sign up for the bone marrow registry.
“I’ve been donating every two months ever since,” said Johnson, who is literally a card-carrying member of the New York Blood Center’s “gallon club.”
And visiting the New York Blood Center is like dropping in on old friends, he said.
“The guys that take care of me, Michael and Skip, they’ve been there as long as I’ve been there,” he said. “We’ve grown old together.”
Johnson has been told that his O+ blood, which can be used by half the Earth’s population, has been given to more than 200 people in the tristate area.
“I wish we had more people like him,” Michele Lariviere, director of donor recruitment for the New York Blood Center, said about Johnson. “It’s too bad we don’t have that many donating in this manner.”
Lariviere said that in New York City, only 2% of residents donate with any regularity.
“They have to support the 98% that are out there not donating blood,” she said. “We have a very small number of donors. That’s why it’s important to get more of them and have them donate as much as possible.”
Some 2,500 pints of donated blood are needed each day to stock the hospitals in New York, New Jersey and other surrounding states, Lariviere said. Local blood centers try their best to fill the demands, but unforeseen circumstances, like foul weather, could put a massive dent in their daily output. Blood donations also dry up in December as people focus on holiday shopping and parties.
In October, the New York Blood Center put out a desperate plea for donors, claiming “New York’s blood supply has never been lower.”
Johnson can’t understand why more people don’t donate blood regularly. The process has left him nothing but benefits, he said.
“It actually makes me feel good,” he said. “I physically feel better the next day. I have more energy.
“Maybe I’m addicted to it, I don’t know,” he said about donating blood. “But I’ve been doing this so long I think I’ll be going permanently.”
Source: New York Daily News