A Bloody Miracle

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (1/10/13) - I met 87-year-old Dale Faughn prior to a reception held in honor of his life and achievements at the Baptist Health campus in Madisonville back in the latter half of December—and he literally looked like a million bucks. From his dashing, money-green sports jacket and dress shirt, right up to his one-hundred-dollar-bill bow tie, Dale accurately personified the old, greenback adage. But after I got to sit down and really talk with the personable gentleman, it became obvious that his life and story were worth much more than his whimsical, “million-dollar” façade. In fact, to the thousands of people Dale may have had a direct hand in saving, as well as the people he’s taught and inspired over the years, I can imagine his life is quite priceless.

Along with serving in World War II, earning a bachelors, masters, and rank I certification from Murray State University, teaching a variety of courses to western Kentucky high school students for over six decades, garnering the coveted title of Kentucky Poet Laureate in 1986 for his distinctive and varied lyric catalogue—which includes seven different poetry-filled publications—and racking up a veritable laundry list of additional professional accreditations, Dale has also given a vital piece of himself to the public ten-times-over by donating an astonishing 29 gallons of blood to our region since 1975.

To put this number into perspective, consider this: studies show that the average adult body, depending on health and weight, contains between 1.25 and 1.5 gallons of blood. Therefore, Dale has donated an awe-inspiring, volume-equivalent sum of 19-23 adult humans over the past 37 years. What’s more, the physically active gentleman says that he has no plans of calling it quits anytime soon.

“I hope to keep donating until I get old [laughs],” says Dale.

A native of western Kentucky’s Lamasco area in Lyon County, and a surviving son of America’s Great Depression, Dale spent much of his time reading and playing outdoors as a youth. After completing his elementary education in a one-room schoolhouse in Fungo, KY, he went on to graduate from Eddyville High School prior to its closing during the fabled, widespread flood of 1937. Then, approximately one week after his graduation ceremony, Dale was inducted into the Marine Corps where he would serve overseas, including stints in Iwo Jima, for a total of 19 months.

And it was during this all-encompassing era of national economic crisis and war-torn turmoil that Dale arrived at three personal realizations, each of which holds firm today: he loves to learn, he loves to teach, and he loves to give.

“I grew up during the Great Depression, and we were the recipients of gifts a lot of the time—you know, things that we needed. And while I thoroughly enjoyed receiving things, I wanted even more to be one who’d give back some day—even at that young age,” says Dale. “So, I thought, ‘Well, it’s pretty important to give blood, and I can.’ Looking back, I would say that would be the main factor that got me started. I didn’t give on a regular basis for a number of years, though. We didn’t have ‘blood teams’ coming to [the relatively nearby town of] Princeton on a normal schedule; they would just come here and there, and I would give blood to a sick neighbor and so on. Then, several years later, I got word that someone from Caldwell County was in need of blood one day, so I came over and donated again. It was then that I realized I could give any day of the week and anytime during the day. That’s when I really got onto a schedule. This was July 24th, 1975.”

“I started giving blood in the old Hopkins County Hospital in Madisonville [on Kentucky Ave].,” added Dale concerning his first of many regular, future donations. “The first time I went over there, they were cordial, friendly, and outgoing, and that spirit hasn’t changed at all with the new [Baptist Health] medical center. Really, I can’t see much of a change at all. We socialize when we come here to give blood; these are folks we want to talk to and I think they want to talk to us. It’s really not that cold, institutionalized kind of thing a person might think in their mind.”

Soon after his first donation, Dale’s generous spirit also began to intermingle with what would become his longtime role as a teacher and writer. In turn, he was able to both educate and inspire others to donate blood that may have previously held reservations about the process.

“I taught for 61 years, and I’ve written many, many poems on donating blood,” says Dale. “When I was teaching biology, I would take time out to let the students know what all the steps were involved in donating, and I’d read some of my poetry, too.”

When I asked Dale what types of medical uses his donations lend aid to, the former science teacher recalled one of his past experiences with giving blood in Hopkins County, as well as the ways in which blood is processed today.

“Of course, today, they take the blood and they fractionate it, so to speak. Someone might need red blood cells, or the platelets, or plasma. Much of the blood that is donated is divided in this way,” says Dale. “One time, they bought a new machine here just to remove your platelets out. I came three different times for that. They didn’t use that machine for too long of a time, though. I do remember getting a call asking if I could come over here on Sunday to give platelets because someone was having open-heart surgery the next day. The platelets help to slow the flow of blood in order to keep a patient from losing too much, so that’s why they need them. Needless to say, I was delighted to come and give them my platelets. Today, some people need the whole of the blood, whereas others need certain parts.”

In detailing additional specifics regarding the various uses of donated blood, Baptist Health’s online blood bank page points out that a single donation “can be used by as many as three different people when separated into its various components.” A listing of each component and their uses, courtesy of the aforementioned page, is as follows:

Red blood cells — typically needed by patients after a severe injury or surgery. They can only be kept under refrigeration for 42 days, so there is a need to continually refresh our supply.
Platelets — Leukemia, transplant and hemophilia patients are most often in need of this blood product which can only be stored for five days.
Plasma — the liquid part of the blood can be used for several different uses, including treatment of burn victims

Though approximately four-million Americans will require a blood transfusion during 2013, it is estimated that an unfortunate five percent of eligible donors with actually choose to give blood. Among that five percent, of course, is Dale.

So what would Dale say to someone unsure about giving blood? “I might ask them, ‘What reason would you have for not donating?’” says Dale.

“Giving blood is really an obsession with me. I want to give, and I’m here unless there’s something that really interferes,” says Dale. “We know that, as they say, ‘the life is in the blood,’ which is even in the Bible, and there’s always a need for it. What’s more, most of us can give. We need more people donating. I don’t think that blood banks should ever have to beg for your blood. They’ve got a job to do, so I don’t think they should have to go to extremes to ask for blood.”

Today, Dale’s perceptive and inspirational works of poetry adorn portions of Baptist Health’s Regional Medical Center blood bank, and can even be heard in their more musical form when Dale and his fellow team of Fredonian donors pay the location a visit for their regular, 8-week contribution.

“I started giving copies of my poetry to the Regional Medical Center blood bank a while ago, and January is ‘Blood Donor Month’, so I’ll try to do something special for that,” says Dale. “Nowadays, there are three of us on a team from Fredonia that come to the blood bank regularly. We take one of my poems that are written to be sung, we use some kind of a tune that’s familiar, and we sing every time we come to donate. They also display my poetry around the building quite a bit, too.”

Other than donating blood, Dale says that he spends his newfound leisure time in what some might consider some rather unorthodox ways for a man of his age.

“I spend much of my time writing poetry. I like to exercise as well. I usually run three miles every day, and I have several other exercises that I do, too. I never get caught up on my reading, which is something I also really enjoy. Occasionally, I’ll go outside and use my chainsaw. I live on a farm five miles out of Fredonia off of Highway 70, so I wish I could stretch my days out and make them even longer,” says Dale. “You know, some people get so tired of being retired—I retired last year—but I’ve found it very, very enjoyable.”

In summation, the Sugg Street Post would like to send a sincere “thank you” to Dale for speaking with us and for all that he’s given back to the world in his long life. You will forever be a part of some and an inspiration to many.

In continuing this thought, we’d like to leave you with one of Dale’s insightful poems, “The Life is in the Blood,” which was written on January 1st, 1991 and dedicated to the RMC blood bank.

 

The Life is in the Blood

The life is in the blood, they say —
The Bible tells us this;
And modern science would agree,
And add it emphasis.

As so it’s life, my friend, we give,
When rich, red blood we share;
And all of us when health is good,
A pint can freely spare.

What greater gift could you present
To someone sick, in need —
Than when you truly give yourself —
When for another bleed?

Donating will not injure you —
It’s noting you should dread;
It’s something to look forward to,
And eager be instead.

It’ll make you feel so good inside —
It’ll help your self-esteem,
Because it puts you squarely on
That caring, healing team.

And so right soon you need to act,
While this is on your mind;
And to the blood bank quickly go —
Yes, go and serve mankind.

To learn more about donating locally, visit Baptist Health’s blood bank page by clicking here or by calling (270) 825-5100.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photo by Jeff Harp

1 comment

  • Brittni C
    Brittni C Thursday, 21 February 2013 00:54 Comment Link

    Mr. Faughn was my teacher in high school! He always encouraged us to give blood. He is a true inspiration!

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