If you read this blog with any frequency you may know that I am a regular blood donor. My double negative blood type makes my red stuff ideal for babies in need of transfusions. How could I not give as often as possible?
When the Hema-Quebec folks called me a few weeks ago to let me know of a local blood drive, I was suffering with a bad cold and cough and therefore could not donate. Feeling much better last week I checked online and luckily found a rare Saturday blood drive not ten minutes from home.
Arriving at the community centre I was pleased to see that there was a lull, and I would not have to wait very long. Within minutes I was lying there happily bleeding away. Note to self: rethink weekend blood drives. The person doing the registration apologized for taking so long, but she explained that it was the first time she had done it. No problem I told her, it’s Saturday, no rush. However I think the nurse may have been in the same boat as it took her a couple of attempts to find my vein. Granted the lighting was not great.
As I lay there I could see a group of three gentleman talking with another donor. One of them came over to me and asked how I was doing. He explained that the blood drive was being held in conjunction with local Black History Month events, and that he and his colleagues were laureates this year.
Moments later he was joined by his friends, one of whom was introduced to me as a pastor and renowned organ player. This spurred me to comment about legendary organist Billy Preston, which set us off on a lovely chat about music, late-night TV and how time flies. One of these fellows was sporting a Volunteer sticker on his shirt and carrying the all-important roll of sticky-tape, used to apply the final gauze pad to the point (or in my case last Saturday points) of entry on a donor’s arm.
Once my donation was done, this fellow kindly helped me to the recovery area where we continued our discussion. He was a very pleasant guy, with a distinctive gap between his front teeth. Quick to smile and laugh, he told me he was originally from Florida. I joked that it could not have been the weather that brought him to Montreal. He explained that it was his music career that drew him north and that he fell in love with Montreal and stayed. He went on to tell me how terrific an entertainer the other guy is. Just prior to getting up and leaving I thought I should ask their names. He told me the first gentleman I had met was Skipper Dean and that his name is Alan Prater.
After a few glasses of juice and a cookie or two, as I was leaving the room I was given a Black History Month calendar. Later when I skimmed through it I came upon photos and biographies of my new pals. With a little follow-up Internet research I learned that Alan Prater, my “volunteer”, the man who taped down my gauze, had been Michael’ Jackson’s friend and trombone player. In a 2013 piece in Montreal’s The Gazette he was described as a “Soul Legend”. When not touring with Michael Jackson he was in a band called Transit that was Al Green’s back-up band.
I went on and found that, according to his website, the other gentleman, Skipper Dean, who is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, has a career that includes performing with the likes of: The Young Rascals, Herman’s Hermits, Ben E. King, and Garry U.S. Bonds. He later joined the U.S. based group called The Avalons, performing with such artists as Charles Aznavour, Johnny Farago, Ginette Reno, and Claude Valade. He was also a member of The Platters and traveled throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, the South Pacific and Hawaii performing with the legendary Don Ho. also performed with such artists as Quincy Jones, Oliver Jones, Michael Bolton, Paul Anka, The Temptations, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, The Montreal Jubilation Choir.
Had I known at the time just who these volunteers were, I would have had a million questions to ask. All I can say is be sure to donate blood, because you never know who you’ll meet!