As a longtime blood donor, Dr. Mark Appler of Mount Airy sees firsthand the need for giving due to his work — but says that even without such exposure he would still be motivated to help.
“I would have probably done this if I had been an auto mechanic,” said Appler, who recently was recognized by the American Red Cross after donating his 15th gallon of blood at Northern Hospital of Surry County. That represents 120 donations altogether.
As is the case with many people who quietly aid their fellow man through various ways on a daily basis, including those rolling up their sleeves to supply a lifesaving substance, Appler reacted modestly concerning that accomplishment.
Appler, a gastroenterologist who is affiliated with Northern Hospital, was reluctant to be singled out for his blood donations.
“There are people who have given more than I have,” he said, calling them “unsung heroes.” Appler guessed that there were several individuals on the hospital staff who have eclipsed his total.
However, a check of the records led Ashly Lancaster, director of marketing and communications at the hospital, to proclaim that Dr. Appler “is in a class of his own” in terms of blood donations by hospital personnel.
Lancaster mentioned two others with notable donation histories, Brian Moser, manager of environmental services, who has given 49 units to date (six gallons), and Sandra Barr, a registered nurse with a medical-surgical specialty.
Barr has donated 74 units (nine gallons) but can no longer give due to recently having cancer. Her last donation was in February 2017, according to Lancaster.
She explained that her records access was limited to those giving blood at the hospital. “If we have others who have donated, say at their church each time, I would not have access to their unit numbers,” Lancaster explained.
Dr. Appler, who is 63, has been donating blood since his late teens, while in college — a span of 45 years.
“My dad worked for the telephone company, and my dad was a pretty regular donor,” he recalled.
After initially giving blood as a youth, Appler continued doing so after receiving his medical degree from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and later moving here in 1985.
“I’m not compulsive about it,” Appler said of donating blood.
But the longtime medical professional does admit that the urge to give can be triggered when he’s driving down the road and sees the familiar Red Cross vehicle at a church or business for a collection drive.
And the primary blood-collection agency in this region is quite appreciative of such inclinations.
“The Red Cross is proud to acknowledge and honor committed blood donors, like Dr. Appler,” commented Lynn Wilkes of its Carolinas Blood Services Region in Winston-Salem, which coordinates collections in Surry County.
“His dedication to saving lives through blood donations over the years truly displays Dr. Appler’s giving spirit and willingness to help others.”
Wilkes also referred Wednesday to Appler’s perspective as a doctor donor.
“As a physician, I’m sure Dr. Appler has firsthand knowledge of the need for blood. He sets the example for all of us to try to help meet those needs by rolling up a sleeve and donating blood as often as we possibly can.”
Although Appler says working in the medical field has not been a factor in his longtime habit of donating blood, its relationship to that function does come to the forefront from time to time.
“One thing I deal with is diverticular bleeding,” Appler said of his role as a gastroenterologist, which involves diseases of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and liver.
The doctor added that it is “not uncommon” to see such a patient receiving a blood transfusion when he comes in to see him or her.
“I’ve wondered if that was my unit of blood hanging there,” Appler said.
“That thought has crossed my mind.”
The Red Cross recently issued an urgent call for blood in response to diminished supplies caused by seasonal factors such as bad weather forcing the cancellation of collection events.
In response, a series of drives was scheduled in Surry County, including these for the remainder of February:
• Friday, 1 to 5:30 p.m., Mountain Park community drive, 1137 Zephyr-Mountain Park Road, State Road.
• Monday, 1:30 to 6 p.m., Elkin community drive, 946 N. Bridge St.
• Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Surry Community College, 630 S. Main St., Dobson.
• Feb. 25, 12:30 to 5 p.m., Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, 1432 Highway 21, State Road.
• Feb. 25, 12:30 to 5 p.m., Holy Cross Missionary Baptist Church, 344 York Road, Mount Airy.
• Feb. 27, 1 to 5:30 p.m., Franklin Elementary School, 727 S. Franklin Road, Mount Airy.
• Feb. 27, 2:30 to 7 p.m., White Plains Christian School, 609 Old Highway 601, Mount Airy.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.