On Friday, May 24, the Fort Oglethorpe Kiwanis Club became acquainted with J.B. Gaskins, president and CEO of Blood Assurance.

After lunch at Park Place Restaurant on Lafayette Road, Gaskins introduced himself and shared some of the things that have motivated him in his career, as well as the needs that Blood Assurance has.

Blood Assurance has a donation center at 2720 Lafayette Road in Fort Oglethorpe that serves the greater Northwest Georgia area.

“I got into blood banking by sheer accident,” Gaskins said. “I also believe it was part of my destiny. And every time I question my life, I remember that God has a hand in what’s happening in my life.”

Gaskins began his blood banking career in 1979 as a part-time phlebotomist in Gainesville, Florida, while he was attending college. Past that point, he moved up in the company, spending a few years as a donor recruiter, regional director, and executive director before he became vice president in 2001.

He spent 15 years as vice president, and was senior vice president for two of those years, before becoming president and CEO in 2017. The same year, he retired from the US Army Reserves as a lieutenant colonel.

His hobbies include photography, outdoor activities such as hiking, paddle-boarding, and biking. He is the father of three adult children and one grandson, and is the youngest of seven siblings.

Gaskins shared a story of his older sister, Sandra, who was in a car accident when he was 10 years old. She was pregnant at the time and thrown through the front windshield of her vehicle. Sandra, who was found around 40 feet away from the car in a ditch, was rushed to the hospital, and the doctors said she wouldn’t make it. She was given her last rites, and the family was told that even if Sandra survived by some miracle, she would suffer brain damaged. Due to medical intervention she was able to survive and continue her life.

“My sister went through 85 units of blood in 36 hours. That’s 85 blood donors. I attribute much of her survival to that.”

Sandra had a baby girl, who now has children and grandchildren of her own.

“The blood supply is the community’s responsibility,” Gaskins said. “Blood Assurance is the steward of the blood supply, but it is community responsibility. This is a critical time of year for us. Schools are getting out of session, but there’s no delay or postponing of surgery because kids are out of school. In fact, this is the busiest time because many people will be traveling or put off surgery until summer when the kids are out of school.”

But timing can be tricky, he said. An individual is permitted to donate blood every 56 days. Blood is only good for 22 days, under the circumstance that it makes it all the way to expiration. This leaves a large amount of time where patients could potentially be in need of blood, which is why Blood Assurance is in need of as many donors as possible, he said. The same idea applies to platelets, which can be donated weekly and are only good for five days. Two of those days are used for processing, so essentially they are only good for patient use for three days.

“When people ask what blood type is the most rare and needed, I always say that it’s the one we currently don’t have on our shelf. It varies.” Gaskins said.

O-negative, to that effect, is worth mentioning, as it is universal and can always be used. Anyone of any blood type can receive O-negative blood. O-negative patients, however, can only receive O-negative blood.

Right now, Gaskins said, blood Assurance is in need of all donors and blood types, but especially platelets.

Jordan Mooney is a reporter for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.