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A 60-year effort

By Staff | Nov 11, 2015

Every two weeks, you can find Franklin Wicker at the Cape Coral One Blood location, donating blood platelets to those who need them.

Those platelet donations have added up over the years, and on Monday, Wicker, along with Janet Allison, a Lehigh Acres woman, were recognized for their amazing generosity and commitment.

Wicker, 82, was recognized as a 165-gallon donor thanks to his bi-weekly effort to give platelets, which he considers his way to give back to those in the community.

“It was a 60-year effort. I do it because I’m healthy and I know there are other people in need of the product I have that I can give them and make them healthy,” Wicker said, as he lay on a recliner, needle in his arm, his blood going into a machine that separated its elements before pumping the red blood cells back into him.

When it was learned Wicker and Allison (who has given 110 gallons) had approached milestones, One Blood officials decided they needed to be brought together, so they were asked to come to the South Fort Myers facility on Daniels Parkway.

Following their gift, the two donors received plaques, and cake and lunch was served in the lobby.

Wicker began giving blood in 1955 when he lived in North Carolina. A co-worker who was in the hospital needed blood, so he donated it.

“Her name was Maria King. The second time I donated was for a co-worker’s wife. Then the bloodmobile came around, then we added a blood bank and donated to all of them,” Wicker said.

How did Wicker get to that level? Obviously, he didn’t give 165 gallons of whole blood, since you can only give one pint every eight weeks.

Wicker gives platelets, which he donates every two weeks up to 24 times per year.

Platelet donations count as double (because it is time consuming, about two hours), which means Wicker gets credit for six gallons per year.

Wicker started giving platelets 34 years ago, which are used for cancer patients and open-heart surgery. Wicker’s sister and her husband had cancer, and the platelets helped them.

Wicker also said giving makes him healthy.

“By taking blood out, the marrow makes new blood. The platelets are replaced in two days by the bone marrow,” Wicker said. “I feel exhilarated when I leave because I know I’m helping somebody.”

Wicker also gets a checkup each time he comes in, as they take his pulse, blood pressure and check his iron and cholesterol. Wicker said if he’s not healthy, they won’t let him donate.

That’s the job of Wicker’s wife of more than 20 years, Barbara. She said she loves to cook and makes sure Franklin eats all the right foods.

“I try to keep him as healthy as I can because I know how important donating platelets is. We eat healthy and don’t eat a lot of the crap in the market,” Barbara said. “We have a garden and an avocado tree and we eat a lot of guacamole.”