Israeli man chases world record with monthly blood donations

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A 65-year-old Israeli man has taken tzedakah to a new level, giving of himself, quite literally, by donating more than 272 units of blood to Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency medical response service, over the course of 41 years.

In 2011, blood donations in Israel were down to a record low with only 4 percent of the population giving blood. But Menachem Steinmetz, a 65-year-old man from Rishon Lezion, countered the trend and broke Israel’s blood donation record and is 42 units shy of the current world record. And he doesn’t plan to stop any time soon.

“I’ll donate until the age of 70, if I’m allowed,” he said. “And I plan to use every moment. As long as I’m still able to be on the side of donating blood and not the other side, I’ll continue to donate blood. Really, why not?”

Dedicated blood donors like Steinmetz are essential for sustaining Israel’s blood supply.  Magen David Adom collects, stores, and distributes all the blood for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and 95 percent of blood for the nation’s hospitals.

People who can’t physically be in Israel to donate blood to Magen David Adom, can also make a financial contribution to American Friends of Magen David Adom to help support Israel’s blood services. AFMDA can be reached online at www.afmda.org.

“Israel’s blood supply is an indicator of the overall health of the Israeli people,” said Arnold Gerson, chief executive officer of AFMDA. “Donating to this cause is a concrete way to impact Israelis and save lives each and every day.”

Prof. Eilat Shinar, director of MDA Blood Services, says the low blood supply has “created a real difficulty to meet the needs of hospitals — delivering doses and blood components for patients, new mothers and the injured.”

Even though Steinmetz is the Israeli record holder, he doesn’t donate blood for the fame. He does it to save lives.

“I donate a lot because it’s the best way a person can give,” he said.

Steinmetz first gave blood as a soldier in the IDF, never imagining that one day he would hold the record for blood donations in Israel. This feat has required dedication and persistence.

“There were even some times they told me they didn’t need me to donate, but I insisted and returned after a few days,” Steinmetz recalled.

Along with the record holder, there are thousands of anonymous blood donors who contribute to this lifesaving supply chain. The average Israeli donor is a 40-year-old man. Men account for 73 percent of all donors and 90 percent of donors are between the ages of 17 and 40. Last year, Israeli soldiers donated 25 percent of all blood units in Israel.

Record-breaking cities include Tel Aviv, where 36,000 blood units were collected last year, and Jerusalem, whose residents donated 30,000 units. Haifa came in third with 27,000 and Be’er Sheva collected 25,000 units.

Tel HaShomer has not broken any records, but it’s home to Sheba Medical Center, where Steinmetz is a regular visitor. When he arrives, everyone knows why he’s there.

“What, it’s already been a month?” jokes the guard at the door when she sees Steinmetz.

“I’m like her calendar,” says Steinmetz with a smile.

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