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During severe blood shortage champion whistler inspires by giving his 10th gallon of blood

Chris Ullman giving blood. (credit Jay Korff ABC7 News)
Chris Ullman giving blood. (credit Jay Korff ABC7 News)
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The American Red Cross urges healthy individuals to give blood amid the coronavirus pandemic. Giving is a safe process and your donation will help keep the blood supply stable during this challenging time.

Chris Ullman is far more than a familiar face at the American Red Cross Donation Center in Washington DC.

“There’s nobody like Chris. There’s only one Chris Ullman,” says American Red Cross, National Capital Region CEO Linda Mathes.

Thanks to durable veins and an enduring heart, Ullman recently joined Red Cross royalty.

“Yeah, this is my 80th time giving blood. Giving blood I think is a huge civic responsibility,” says Ullman.

In late February this 56-year-old public relations expert rolled up his sleeve to reach the remarkable milestone of donating in his lifetime 10 gallons of blood.

Ullman says, “As I was thinking about this donation, I was drinking some milk and looked at a gallon container and pictured 10 of these things lined up with blood and thought, wow, that’s a lot of blood.”

Red Cross officials say every pint of donated blood has the potential of saving up to three lives. That means Ullman has impacted nearly 250 lives in the nearly 40 years he’s been giving blood.

“What Chris will do with his tenth gallon is save a lot of lives and inspire other people to do this. At least that’s our hope,” says Mathes.

Chris Ullman doesn’t limit his benevolence just to pints of blood. Ullman started whistling in elementary school and hasn’t stopped. This 4-time International Whistling Champion has performed in front of presidents, on world stages and even atop the Washington Monument.

Yet, this author and inspirational speaker prefers the simple power of whistling to people he doesn’t know. For the last 25 years he tries to whistle “Happy Birthday” at least once a day to someone. He estimates that he wishes some 600 people a year happy birthday.

Ullman adds, “Tt is the best thing to be able to honor someone else’s life by taking a moment and making them smile.”

After Ullman gave his tenth gallon of blood, we walked along the National Mall toward the Lincoln Memorial. Along the way he wished a number of people happy birthday with a song, including a woman visiting from France.

She responded enthusiastically to his rendition of Happy Birthday with, “Thank you. That was so good!”

Ullman reminds us that the greatest gifts we possess are best when shared whether you’re acknowledging a life with a song or saving a life with a pint of blood.

“It’s like a lot of things in life. If you can do it, it’s then a question of what you do with it,” says Ullman.

Chris Ullman’s next goal is to donate a total of 20 gallons of blood during his lifetime.

NEW: Chris Ullman recently set up a gofundme page here to raise money for The American Red Cross during these trying times.

More important information from the American Red Cross about blood donation:

As the coronavirus pandemic has grown, the Red Cross has seen blood drive cancellations grow at an alarming rate. Through March 18, more than 4,500 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to coronavirus concerns, resulting in about 150,000 fewer blood donations. This shortage is unprecedented.

As the Coronavirus continues to spread, this blood shortage could impact patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, or patients suffering from cancer. One of the most important things people can do to ensure we don’t have another health care crisis on top of the coronavirus is to give blood. The need for blood is constant, and will continue even as the outbreak grows. Volunteer donors are the only source of blood for those in need. Patients fighting cancer use nearly one quarter of the nation’s blood supply.

Some people may be holding off on donating blood because they are concerned about safety, but the Red Cross assures us that they are following all health and safety protocols. They ask donors to go on to make an appointment (no lining up with other donors). They are checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive, providing hand sanitizer, spacing beds to allow social distancing, and disinfecting surfaces and equipment. Donors can also make an appointment at 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or by using the American Red Cross Blood Donor App.

As they did even before the pandemic, employees continue to wear gloves, routinely wipe down donor-touched areas, use sterile collection sets for every donation, and prepare the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub.

There is no evidence and there are no reported cases of the coronavirus – or any respiratory virus - being transmitted by a blood transfusion. Giving and receiving blood are still safe practices.

The US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, called on healthy Americans to donate blood. "You can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement," Adams said.

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"As a nation, this is a time where we must take care of one another including those most vulnerable among us in hospitals,” said Gail McGovern, president and chief executive officer of the American Red Cross. She added: “One of the most important things people can do right now during this public health emergency is to give blood. If you are healthy and feeling well, please make an appointment to donate as soon as possible. We understand why people may be hesitant to come out for a blood drive but want to reassure the public that blood donation is a safe process, and that we have put additional precautions in place at our blood drives to protect the health of safety of our donors and staff."

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