The Blood Donor
Ask him why he keeps on donating, and Fischer will shrug and say simply, "Look—I want to help people. And it doesn't hurt me. When I was a salesman, driving the whole metropolitan area, I'd come home and say, 'I've had a terrible day, but you know, I gave blood, and that perks me up.' People are living because I gave blood." At a rate of three people per pint, he's helped about 1,000 people over the years.
He cheerfully allows that he's always been competitive. Years ago, he recalls, "feeling very expansive, I said to the phlebotomist, 'What's the record around here? I've got 80 pints!' She called over a little old lady and said, 'Mary, how many pints have you given?' She says, 'This is my 136th.' It made me feel so small…."
As if his regular service weren't enough, Fischer learned his O-positive blood is Code 96. That means it lacks a particular combination of antigens, which makes it especially useful for specialized cases: transplants, people who have been transfused so often that they reject regular blood, and fragile babies.
When Ronald Reagan was shot, Fischer arranged for two receipts to go to him. Was there a thank-you note? Nope, but never mind. Still, he gets a kick out of what he calls "the notoriety," the blizzard of citations, certificates, and plaques, and he proudly mentions that he was named one of President George H.W. Bush's Points of Light.
You'd think by now that Fischer would have made it into the Guinness World Records, but he's behind the current recordholder, Englishman Anthony Davis, and Maurice Wood in St. Louis, who is just a few pints ahead. He and Wood have talked; neither one is about to give up. Fischer's keeping an eye on Wood, who recently moved into an assisted living residence, so who knows?
On this bright morning at the country club, the technicians fuss over Fischer as the TV cameras roll and a spry jazz combo plays. The other donors smile at him as they leave with their gifts—small pots of chrysanthemums, Glen Campbell CDs. None of the local politicians he's been hoping for have shown up, but Fischer seems content, telling stories and savoring the moment. How much longer will he keep on giving? "Until I drop." He adds wryly, "After this, no more big events. Fifty gallons? Do the math…."
For now, he's planning to take the rest of the day off, maybe do some chores for his wife. He'll be back when it's time.
Helen Rogan has written for many publications, including The New York Times. She lives in Brooklyn.