LAKE PARK, Fla. (AP) - A Palm Beach County man has reached a rare milestone. He's donated 100 gallons of blood.
    
On July 7, 1977, Harold Mendenhall donated his first pint of blood. Sometime last month the 84-year-old from Riviera Beach reached the 100-gallon mark.
    
Even so, Mendenhall told Palm Beach Post (http://bit.ly/10JVcwN ) he doesn't like to watch the needle sliding into the raised vein on the inside of his left arm.
    
He jokes with phlebotomist LaTonia Federick, telling her to use the "sharp needle, not that square one."
    
"They always compliment me on my veins," he said.
    
Mendenhall said he started donating blood when his wife, Frankie, was diagnosed with breast cancer. As an RN at St. Mary's Medical Center, Mendenhall said his wife was on an IV team trained to get a needle in even the most uncooperative vein.
    
To honor her, he began giving blood.
    
When she died seven years later, Mendenhall said he felt lost. He often stopped by the blood bank on the way home from work, donating six gallons of blood a year.
    
After his wife died, Mendenhall said two of their sons - ages 47 and 53 - died from complications of various disabilities. Donating blood was a coping mechanism. While he couldn't save his wife and sons, Mendenhall said he felt like he was helping someone.
    
"For some reason, I'm still here and I'm grateful. That's one of the reasons I keep donating."
    
He became a platelet donor, which helps patients with blood cancers, such as leukemia, that often require platelet transfusions. Platelet donors are able to give two pints of blood at a time and they are able to give blood more frequently than whole blood donors.
    
Mendenhall said his visits to the blood bank every two weeks help him monitor his health. Staff members take his blood pressure and other vital signs and do 13 tests for conditions such as West Nile virus.
    
"It's like getting a check-up every two weeks," he said.
    
There are other benefits, like the coupons for free meals at area restaurants the blood bank gives to donors.
    
"Giving blood can only be done by a human being, so that's been my payback for my career and my good health and all the blessings I've had," he said.
    
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Information from: The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, http://www.pbpost.com

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