Minister of Health and Social Development, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis (centre) congratulates blood donor John “Johnny” Bennett, who donated his 200th pint of blood to the Blood Bank of the Princess Margaret Hospital on Wednesday, January 16, 2008. Mr. Bennett has been donating blood every eight weeks for the past 49 years. He has also organized and sponsored two annual blood drives in the community of Spanish Wells, Eleuthera that have collected more than 20 pints of blood each year. The drives were first launched in 1999. Also pictured is Dorothy Hepburn, Deputy Hospital Administrator at the Princess Margaret Hospital. (Photo/Kris Ingraham)
By: Matt Maura
NASSAU, The Bahamas –— John “Johnny” Bennett considers himself one of the “luckiest” men alive for being able to give back to society as he has since arriving in The Bahamas fifty years ago.
The hundreds of persons he has helped to live longer, more fulfilling lives during that period however, think it’s the other way around. And while the word “hero” is often used too loosely in the world, Mr. Bennett has proven to be exactly that.
Mr. Bennett, or “Johnny” as he is affectionately known to employees and administrators of the Blood Bank at the Princess Margaret Hospital, donated his 200th pint of blood on Wednesday, January 16 and in the process, continued his record-breaking and life-saving contribution to the Blood Bank.
Minister of Health and Social Development, Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis said, “If you were to calculate the number of lives he has saved over the years and the number of individuals he has allowed to undergo surgical procedures because of his donations, it is countless and so his contribution to society has been priceless.
“We would hope that a lot more individuals would become like Mr. Bennett and donate blood because these donations save lots of lives.”
A humble man, Mr. Bennett said donating blood allows him to be philanthropic in a special way.
“There are many people out there who contribute wonderfully to the community by giving back some of their money, but I don’t have any of that to give, and so I give one of the best things in life I can and that’s blood,” he noted.
“It doesn’t cost me anything. It does not cost the people who benefit from receiving the blood anything. It’s a bond together in life and I don’t think you can beat that. There are so many ways people can give back to society. I give back by donating my blood.”
Mr. Bennett’s gift of giving began back in 1956 while stationed in Jamaica with the Worcestershire Regiment from England when a fellow soldier and friend was seriously injured in an accident. His “buddy” required blood to save his life and the Medical Officer made a direct transfer of blood from Mr. Bennett’s arm to the arm of his injured friend.
Two years later he arrived in The Bahamas, still attached to the Worcestershire Regiment and served here for two years. During this period, he met and married the former Martha Pinder of Spanish Wells, Eleuthera and decided to make The Bahamas his home.
Hospital records show that “Johnny” first began donating blood to the Blood Bank in 1959 (49 years ago) and has been doing so every eight weeks since.
His “O” blood type, Blood Bank officials say, is of the Universal Blood Group, making Mr. Bennett a true “giver of life.”
Officials point out that a pint of blood can be separated into three main parts of which a patient may need only one, noting that Johnny has consistently given “the gift of life’ to numerous patients over the past 49 years.
Dr. Minnis said Mr. Bennett’s contributions (along with those of the other individual and group voluntary Blood Donors) are vital to the care of patients at the Princess Margaret Hospital, particularly at a time when injuries sustained as a result of violent crimes and violent car crashes have been on the increase.
“As a result, we really want to encourage more and more persons to donate blood because it really does save a lot of lives,” Dr. Minnis added.
Dr. Minnis said Mr. Bennett, unknowingly, has also benefited from his donations as he has replaced his total body blood volume eight times.
“And so every few months he is a new man; he has new blood; new cells,” Dr. Minnis added.
Mr. Bennett said a love of life has been the driving force behind his donations over the years. In addition to donating blood every eight weeks, Mr. Bennett has annually sponsored two Blood Drives in Spanish Wells that have collected more than 20 pints of blood. The blood drives, which are funded by Mr. Bennett, were launched in 1999.
“If you carry the Blood Bank to the Family Islands, you will get more persons to donate blood than if you want the Family Islanders to come to New Providence to donate blood (because) people are not going to travel like that,” Mr. Bennett said.