July 21, 2018  |  

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The Gift That Keeps on Giving

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All Rich Mulvihill wanted to do the first time he gave blood was get out of Spanish class. That was nearly 20 years ago when he was a senior at Old Saybrook High School.

“They let you pick the time slot, so everybody picked a class they wanted to miss,” he recalled.

On Friday, Aug. 18, Mulvihill will donate again at an upcoming drive at Chester Village West and now his reasons are very different.

“It’s a community thing. It saves lives; it’s a good thing to do,” he said.

Mulvihill has worked for the past two years at Chester Village West as a security guard. He is also a volunteer with the Old Saybrook Fire Department and said being present at accident scenes has given him a particular appreciation for the importance of blood donations.

The blood drive, from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. is for community members as well as Chester Village West residents and staff.

Sara Philpott, the marketing manager at Chester Village West, will also be giving blood at the upcoming drive. She, too, started in high school in West Haven, but not to miss Spanish class. Philpott, who now lives in Westbrook, wanted to get out of physical education.

“I was on the swim team and I didn’t think we should have to go to gym, too,” she said.

Now, she wants to give in memory of her late father whose life was prolonged by the blood donations he received.

Chester Village West Marketing Assistant Brenda Kollmer of Deep River is another regular blood donor with a special distinction: speed.

“If there was a race, I would win every time,” she said.

According to the documentation given to her, Kollmer’s record for the time it took to give a pint of blood is less than five minutes—four minutes and 51 seconds.

Red Cross standards for donation depend on whether whole blood, plasma, or platelets are drawn. To check requirements, visit the Red Cross donation site

After his high school experience, Mulvihill started giving regularly when he joined the Old Saybrook Fire Department in 1999. His donation total to date is an impressive one: He has given 16 pints or 2 gallons of blood. That blood, according to the American Red Cross, has helped save 48 lives. Mulvihill has Type O negative blood, making him a universal donor, a person whose blood can be transfused in people not only with O blood, but also those with other blood types.

Mulvihill gives a special type of donation, called Power Red with a machine that removes red cells but returns plasma and platelets to the donor. He can make Power Red donations three times a year and he uses a Red Cross blood donor app on his cell phone to keep track of them. The app lets him know when sufficient time has passed and where nearby blood drives are taking place. Joanne Krekian of the Red Cross explained the advantage of Power Red is that it can go directly to hospitals without further processing.

Mulvihill likes the Power Red process because it doesn’t leave him dehydrated and he added it has none of the temporary side effects that can sometimes accompany donation like dizziness or tiredness. To minimize any such reactions, donors rest after the procedure and then have something to drink and to eat before leaving. There are various kinds of sandwiches and cookies, but Mulvihill has a special favorite, chewable fruit gummies.

One of the most rewarding features of the blood donor app is that it lets people know to what hospital their blood has gone. Most recently Mulvihill’s blood went to Yale New Haven, but it has gone to a number of Connecticut institutions including Hartford and Middlesex hospitals.

He plans to continue his regular blood donations.

“As long as I meet the criteria, I will give. It’s a great process,” he said.

His hope is to reach 10 gallons in blood donations.

Chester Village West holds a blood drive once a year. In addition to Mulvihill, Philpott, and Kollmer, other Chester Village staffers who regularly donate blood are Director of Operations Jim Jake and Accounting Manager Debra Millspaugh, both of Deep River, and Transportation Coordinator Priscilla Soucy of Killingworth.

To make an appointment to donate blood on Aug. 18 from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Chester Village West, call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Chester Village West is at 317 West Main Street in Chester. To learn more about blood donations, visit

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