C. Randolph Johnson gave the gift of life 104 times

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 14, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

If you have ever had a blood transfusion, it’s not impossible that you could be walking around with a little of 87-year-old C. Randolph Johnson’s blood coursing through your veins. He’s donated more than 104 pints, and with at least four blood components derived from each pint of blood, Johnson’s 13 gallons of blood may be helping hundreds of people in Suffolk alone.

Johnson, a native of Logan County, W.Va., is believed to be one of the most generous donors of blood in Suffolk, and the only reason he stopped giving is his age. He began giving blood at the age of 31, and it was not out of the question for him to tell little white lies in order to give more than usually allowed by Red Cross standards.

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&uot;I was a coal miner in Logan County until 1967 when I came to Suffolk,&uot; said Johnson. &uot;When I was working in the coal mines, the Red Cross used to hold blood drives outside the mine shafts, and I would tell them that it had been 60 days since I’d last donated, whether it had or not. I used to tell the other miners – get over there and give some blood.&uot;

As a keepsake of all his gifts of life, Johnson has a beautifully crafted solid walnut case that a friend, Frank Wentz, made from timber cut off the Mills E. Godwin farm in Chuckatuck. He and the former governor went to church together for many years. In fact, Johnson lives in a house that he purchased from the governor and his wife.

The case is lined with a satiny fabric and that was put into the walnut box by Johnson’s daughter, Patricia. The lining is dotted with the 114 little pins, shaped like drops of blood, that each symbolizes a pint of blood donated.

Johnson spent most of his life in the coalmines, and he came away with silicosis, a disease of the lungs caused by rock dust. He suffers shortage of breath to this day, but as he said, it was a matter of feeding his family and he stayed with the mines for 40 years, giving blood the entire time.

Johnson and his late wife, Anna, came to Suffolk after his retirement and several trips each year to visit daughters in Hampton Roads. They were students at Riverside Hospital’s School of Nursing.

&uot;When we moved to Suffolk, there were announcements of blood drives and I just picked up where I left off in West Virginia,&uot; said Johnson. &uot;When I turned 65, my doctor suggested that I shouldn’t give so much, but I’ve since learned that as long as you are healthy, you can donate.&uot;

Johnson, a resident of Bridge Point Farms, said he keeps himself healthy with vegetable gardening. He also plants a few flowers in memory of his wife of 62 years.

&uot;She took very good care of me – couldn’t even get myself a glass of water – she’d tell me to sit down so that she could get it,&uot; said Johnson. &uot;She was a wonderful wife. I not only lost a wife but my true helpmate.&uot;

Donna Perry, the Financial Development coordinator for the Suffolk Chapter of the American Red Cross, said she is extremely grateful for people like Johnson. She said he is one of several people who have given large amounts of blood in this city.

G. Stewart Tyler, chairman of the Red Cross Blood Services Committee in Suffolk, is another having given several gallons himself. He said Johnson has certainly done his duty for his fellow man.

&uot;You’ve given a gift where the recipient doesn’t know who the giver is,&uot; said Tyler. &uot;Like when I go to the airports or bus terminals – I look around and I don’t know who has your blood or my blood in their veins, and I think that’s one of the most blessed gifts you can give.&uot;

Blood is always needed for emergencies and for people who have cancer, blood disorders, sickle cell, anemia and other illnesses, Perry added. And, she said, some people need regular blood transfusions just to live.

&uot;Nearly 5 million people receive blood transfusions each year and your donation could mean the difference between life and death,&uot; Perry added. &uot;Giving blood is a simple and convenient procedure and we urge everyone who can to give blood – give the gift of life.&uot;

For information on donating blood, call the Suffolk Chapter of the American Red Cross at 539-6645, or go online at www.redcross.org