Los Altos donor's gift can be measured in gallons

Courtesy of Joe Grippo
Joe Grippo netted a t-shirt when he was celebrated at Stanford Blood Center earlier this month for donating his 200th pint of blood.

Los Altos resident Joe Grippo first gave blood when someone he knew was in need. A co-worker scheduled for heart surgery spurred a donation drive when Grippo was a young professional still finishing his MBA by night classes.

As he learned the process and discovered that he had a rare blood type in particularly high demand, Grippo was hooked. A few decades later, he has reached the milestone of donating 25 gallons of blood in total.

Grippo didn’t know a celebration of his 200th pint was in the offing when he visited Stanford Blood Center this month. When he arrived at the donation center, a crowd with a celebratory sign met him.

“It’s an easy volunteer activity, and it really does help people,” he said.

Seniors in good health can donate blood for as long as they feel able and interested – there is no upper age limit on sharing this resource.

“Everything is higher-tech, there are great places to sit, but you’re still just sitting there,” he noted of how the process hasn’t changed much over time.

Paperwork has gotten more extensive as researchers’ grasp of blood-borne illnesses has grown. But because donating blood nonetheless takes less than an hour, Grippo said he has time to do little more than read the newspaper or call his brother in Chicago. The medical examination is limited but potentially useful, as donors learn their blood pressure and pulse, and can get a cholesterol count.

“They see if you have enough iron, you fill out an electronic questionnaire – it’s very, very easy,” he said.

Grippo donates at the Stanford Blood Center on South Drive, near El Camino Hospital in Mountain View. It’s known for big chocolate chip cookies, a prized perk of donations. (Pro tip: Many donors microwave them for a few seconds to achieve melting gooiness.)

“Absolutely I look forward to it and I take one home with me,” he said when asked about the legendary cookie.

Grippo carries an “unintelligible card” that describes his blood type, specific to those of Mediterranean descent, and its prized combination of antigens.

“One time they called and said they had an infant who needed my blood and could I go in; that’s the only time I ever really was up close and personal,” he said in an interview last week.

Usually, Grippo relied for inspiration on the fact that as many as three people he will never meet could be helped by each pint he gives – meaning more than a thousand people may have been helped by his donations over time.

Twenty-three years of work at SRI International slowed down his progress at times, as he often traveled overseas. But as he moved on to leadership roles locally, he picked up the pace.

“There are others in the community who have given more. Since retiring in 2000, I’ve been able to give more regularly and I will as long as they’ll accept my blood,” he said, and added with a twinkle, “or develop synthetic blood, which is what the health industry is actually working on.”

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