STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — Betsy Henry is a giving person. So giving that every eight weeks the Stamford resident drives to the American Red Cross in Norwalk, rolls up her sleeve and donates a pint of blood.
It's something she started doing as a teenager — more than 40 years ago — and something she has faithfully done since. On Saturday, she'll donate her 184th pint, bringing her grand total to 23 gallons.
"I've been donating blood since I was 17 years old," Henry said. "I donate every 56 days. That's the cutoff."
The 59-year-old medical assistant receives awards and recognitions from the Red Cross each year for her frequent donations and is one of the state's highest active donors.
"We are grateful to Betsy for her commitment to donating blood to the Red Cross and for her dedication to our life-saving mission," said Elaine St. Peter, spokesperson for the Red Cross. "As a 23-gallon donor, Betsy has achieved an impressive milestone.
"One blood donation can help up to three patients. By donating 184 times, Betsy has potentially helped save the lives of up to 552 patients."
Someone needs blood every two seconds, with more than 44,000 donations needed each day, according to the Red Cross. The average person has about 10 pints of blood and can replenish any missing blood within a few days. But Henry notes the Red Cross' 56-day donation policy is strict, and it will stop donors who are even a day early.
Henry was a Red Cross volunteer in high school, answering phones and doing other work, when she donated her first pint of blood. She says blood is something that can't be purchased or manufactured.
"I just decided this was something you can't buy," she said. "People need it. It's the gift of life."
When she's donating blood in Norwalk, Henry said she sees people walking by and thinks they've probably never donated. She said she's always trying to talk people into donating.
"I'm the only one," Henry said. "I try to recruit people to come, but nobody wants to do it. Nobody wants to give their time. You've gotta make time."
The entire process of giving blood -- which includes registration, answering some questions, a mini-physical exam and a snack -- takes about an hour and 15 minutes. After she donates, Henry said she feels better because she may have just saved a life.
"One pint of blood can save three people's lives," she said.
Since the recent hurricane, Henry said it's even more important that people donate blood; St. Peter agrees.
"Blood has a limited shelf life and must constantly be replenished," St. Peter said. "We are deeply grateful to all those who remember patients in need and for the overwhelming response that has helped make up the shortfall after Superstorm Sandy."
St. Peter said blood donors are encouraged to give during the holidays, a time when people are typically busy, as well as year-round.
But one person that she won't have to urge to donate is Henry, who was busy eating liver and pumpkin seeds this week to build up her iron and drinking lots of water.
"People stuck in the hospital with diseases such as sickle-cell anemia need blood on a regular basis and where are they gonna get it?" Henry asked. "They rely on regular donors."