Published 12:00 am Friday, March 4, 2011

By Susan Shinn
For The Salisbury Post
Ask any veteran blood donor why they do what they do, and you’ll likely get an “aw-shucks” kinda attitude.
Put Ernie Kirchin in that camp.
Kirchin, 53, who retired last year as a detective from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, has given some 45 gallons since the mid-1980s. Most of that has been comprised of blood platelets. Because the body renews itself of platelets faster than whole blood, Kirchin typically gave platelets once a month when he worked in Charlotte.
“He’s been a very true giver for a long time,” says Judy Trexler, who organizes the blood drives at St. John’s Lutheran Church. Trexler says the church usually has about 75 potential donors show up for every drive. It’s a good mix of veterans and those who’ve only given a time or two, she says.
Often, parents and their young adult children come to donate, which she loves to see.
“That’s really cool,” she says.
When Kirchin worked at the police department, he gave blood regularly, until he saw a flyer for a bone marrow drive. There was a need for platelets, so he switched over. He’s been asked once to be tested as a bone marrow donor. Giving runs in his family, because his brother-in-law is a bone marrow donor.
“Some people have a real specific need to give blood,” Kirchin notes. “It’s a community service for them.”
Kirchin sees giving platelets the same way. At one time, he would be told exactly where his platelets would be going each time he donated.
The platelet collection site in Charlotte became like Cheers, a place where everybody knew his name.
“You’d see the same people,” he says. “The nurses knew me on a first-name basis. It was like a family. I miss that camaraderie. Those are some very dedicated employees of the Red Cross.”
March is Red Cross Month, and the organization has scheduled a number of blood drives (see calendar above). If you’re interested in donating platelets, call 704-805-3000. If you’d like to donate blood locally, call 704-633-3854.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.