John Sheppard's Story

315 Pints of Blood Donated (and still counting)

Inspired to Give

When John Sheppard graduated from Fort Myers High School in 1950 and decided to further his education at the University of Florida, his good friend, Gene, joined the Marines. Gene fought in the Korean War and was badly wounded. When John visited his friend at a Jacksonville military hospital, he knew he needed do something to help people like Gene.

"I donated blood for the first time at the student infirmary on campus," John recalls. "The whole time, I was thinking about Gene and how other donors saved his life."

John donated a pint of blood that day, and continues to donate on a regular basis to this day. According to Food and Drug Administration guidelines, he can donate every 56 days, and he does.

"Every 56 days, I go to the Blood Center at Lee Memorial Hospital and donate," he says. "And every time, I think about Gene."

A Happy Reunion

In 2004, John recognized the last name on his blood technician's nametag—it was Gene's last name.

"It turned out she was Gene's niece," John says. "She told me Gene lived in Arkansas, and gave me his address. I wrote him a long letter about life, faith and why I started donating blood regularly. He called a few weeks later, and we stayed in touch through phone calls until he died in 2008."

At the request of Gene's wife, John gave the eulogy at Gene's funeral. He shared the story of his first blood donation, and how he thinks about Gene each time he donates blood.

Going for the Record

According to Nancy Hendrick, Lee Memorial Health System Blood Center community relations coordinator, each pint of blood can save as many as three lives. To date, John has donated 315 pints, saving 945 lives—and that only includes the blood he has donated in Fort Myers.

His most recent donation on July 21, 2011, officially was recognized as the Guinness World Record™ for Most Whole Blood Donated. The previous record was 231 pints by an Australian man.

John does not plan to stop donating now that he holds a world record. John will reach his personal goal of 320 pints—or 40 gallons—by his 80th birthday next year. He will continue to donate for as long as he is healthy and able. There is no upper age limit for blood donors.