Betty Golmanavich began giving blood in the late 1970s, in a quiet neighborhood in Baltimore, when the Red Cross started setting up bloodmobiles in the parking lot of her church. She was moved by the idea that this simple act could have such a dramatic impact on peoples’ lives.
Golmanavich liked the act of donating so much that she never stopped. “I just kind of kept with it,” she said.
That was over 40 years ago. The world has changed in countless ways since then. She recalls giving blood during the call for help in the aftermath of 9/11, the 2011 tsunami in Japan, and Hurricane Katrina. Golmanavich herself has changed since then (she turns 73 in February). However, when it comes to donating blood, that initial belief—the idea that a single simple act could impact someone’s life in immeasurable ways—still burns brightly in her.
“I’m approaching 700 donations,” Golmanavich said.
Donations, Physical and Otherwise
These days, Golmanavich gives at the Red Cross Donation Center at 38th Street and Dewey Avenue. She likes the fact that she can watch movies while she donates (such as Hallmark movies) or read a book (her favorites are from the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, which she discovered while volunteering for the Red Cross), but mostly, she likes the people. “As for the Red Cross Staff, everybody is just incredible,” Golmanavich explained. “They’re so friendly, and always looking out for your safety and well-being. If they aren’t busy tending to another patient, they stand and visit with you. They’re so welcoming, and such a nice group of people to work with.”
The staff feels the same about Golmanavich, a regular there for over a decade. Samantha Pollard, the Red Cross director at 38th Street and Dewey Avenue, explained that, “Betty is the Red Cross’ dream donor. She knows the importance of donation and she understands the impact donation can have.” She continued, “If we could clone Betty, that would be incredible. She embodies what the Red Cross is. We are so grateful Betty spends her time with us.”
Pollard explained that Golmanavich’s donations to the spirit of the staff are just as important as her blood donations. “You could ask Betty to help you with anything, and she would probably say yes,” Pollard said. “If I ever needed a reminder about the work we do, I would go talk to Betty for a refresher.”
Golmanavich hasn’t only donated blood; she’s donated her time to the Red Cross. At one point, before technology had caught up, individual Red Cross blood banks posted their own donations. Golmanavich often volunteered for this, and remembers posting donations after 9/11. “I posted over 900 donations in a span of a few days,” she recalled.
Golmanavich will be the first to say she gets a great return on investment. She loves the way the Red Cross informs donors about the help they are doing. Donors receive emails that describe how their donations are utilized and the work that is being done with them. “Every time I donate, they’ll send me an email and let me know how it was used,” Golmanavich said. “Last time, it was used in Minnesota. I think it’s great that it’s not used just here, locally. I love to learn about that.”
The Need Remains
Donating for 40 years and over 700 times is quite an accomplishment. According to their website, the Red Cross started taking civilian blood donations in the 1940s, and, to this day, provides more than 40% of blood-related products in the U.S.
Blood and its elements can be collected from a single donor in several ways: as whole blood, plasma, or platelets. Each kind of donation has different characteristics. Whole blood, for example, can help up to three people in need, if divided into its elements, but is usually used to treat victims of accident or injury experiencing heavy blood loss. Red blood cells, which aid the body by carrying oxygen, must be used within 42 days. Platelets, critical in allowing the body to form blood clots and stop bleeding, have a shelf life of only five days.
Each means of collection requires a slightly different procedure, and Golmanavich has given them all. “If I got it, you can have it,” she explained. She donated platelets around 18 times in 2019. To let her body keep up with steady donations, the Red Cross recommended in December that she only donate plasma every other month. Golmanavich wasn’t thrilled by this news.
“I want to donate,” she said. “I feel bad that I can’t help them out for two months.”
A Call To Donate
Golmanavich said she can not think of any downsides to giving. “Maybe a bruise or two. But it’s such a great cause. It’s just a rewarding experience knowing you helped these people.” Golmanavich urged those thinking of donating blood to try it, if able. “There’s an urgent need. If you have the time, please do it. It’s a great way to spread the kindness,” she said.
Out of the 38% of people in the U.S. who can give, only 3% do.
Golmanavich, married 50 years in April to her husband, Jerry, doesn’t see herself ending her pursuit of kindness anytime soon. She will keep the flame of compassion for others lit for as long as she can.
Or, in her own words, “as long as I am able and physically fit, I will do it.”
Visit redcross.org/local/nebraska or call the Red Cross at 38th Street and Dewey Avenue at 402.343.7700 for more information.
This article was printed in the March/April 2020 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.