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Despite 'crater' in her arm, Fargo woman with rare blood is frequent donor

Arlinda Lewis, of Fargo, has been donating blood on a fairly regular basis for 39 years. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — Arlinda Lewis, also known as Lindy, has been donating blood since 1978, when she and some fellow North Dakota State University students heard about a blood drive and decided to donate some of their own.

After that first time, the blood services organization she gave to would call about once a week.

It turned out that her blood type — A negative — is one of the relatively rare ones, shared by about 6 percent of the population.

That, and the fact that for several other reasons her blood can be used by young children, has made Lewis popular with the blood services folks for nearly 40 years.

"Every week, they'd give me a call," said Lewis, a Fargo resident.

For United Blood Services in Fargo, donors like Lewis are the core of what they do, said Tami Kilzer, marketing and communications manager at United Blood Services.

"Donors that are that regular — and have committed to our mission in general — are extremely important to the blood supply," Kilzer said.

"Every donation makes a difference to a patient that's needing blood," she added, "but to have that ongoing and regular commitment from donors like Arlinda that we can rely on is really critical to meeting patient needs."

Lewis said she has suffered no long-term issues from all her years of giving, unless you count the dent in her arm.

"I've got kind of a crater in that spot," she said.

She eventually took her giving even further, agreeing to donate parts of her blood such as platelets and plasma. That involves a time-intensive process to separate out the components before returning the blood to her body.

The weekly pace didn't hold up, but her donations still have been prolific over time. Lewis figures that over the nearly 40 years she has been donating blood she has provided close to 40 gallons. According to her own record keeping, she has donated about 357 times. She said her goal is to reach 400.

Summer is one of the times of the year when donors like Lewis are especially valuable for blood banks. Many people are preoccupied with graduations, weddings and other goings on, Kilzer said.

"People forget to make time to donate, so overall we need more donors," Kilzer said.

To sign up, people may call United Bloods Services at (701) 293-9453, or go online at www.bloodhero.com, or unitedbloodservices.org.

Dave Olson
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