News and Events

Firefighter Breaks Record for Donating Platelets: 102 Donations Saving More Than 500 Lives

Publication Date: 9/19/2022 10:30 AM

It is now eight years since Ofer Lavi began donating blood platelets and plasma at Rambam Health Care Campus for cancer patients, trauma victims, and premature babies. Recently, after 102 plasma donations, he realized that ‘102’ is also the emergency telephone number for Fire and Rescue Services.

Photography: Rambam HCCPhotography: Rambam HCC

Ofer Lavi recently sat in a donor chair of Rambam’s Platelet Donation Unit. He was connected to a machine that would remove platelets and plasma (blood fluid) from his veins, to make his 102nd donation. “Saving a life is the best feeling in the world,” explains Ofer Lavi, “it motivates me to get out of bed in the morning.”

According to veteran medical professionals, Lavi (38), who lives with his wife Shelli and their three children in Kibbutz Tzivon in the Upper Galilee, holds the Israeli, and perhaps the world, record for platelet donations. For the last eight years he has been coming to Rambam once or twice a month, at his own expense, to spend two hours connected to the machine that extracts his platelets.

In the past, Lavi worked in the high-tech sector and was a detective with the Israel Police. In 2015, he decided to join the Fire and Rescue Services at the Galil-Golan Firestation – “for the same reason I am now at Rambam – to save lives. In my previous jobs, I felt that something was missing and that I was not fulfilling my mission in life.”

Donating Platelets Saves Lives

Donated platelets help stop bleeding. They are commonly given to people who have cancer or anemia. In 2014, after Lavi learned that he was a universal plasma donor because of his AB blood type, he came to Rambam to donate platelets for a distant relative who had cancer. “That’s when I was exposed to the Platelet Donation Unit and learned about families seeking platelet donors,” Lavi says, “I realized that a blood type like mine was the best for donating platelets and plasma.”

“At first, private individuals who received my phone number contacted me to request a blood donation. They gave me gifts. I was uneasy about this situation. I asked to be a registered blood donor who would donate regularly and be unaware of the recipients.”

Dr. Lilach Bonstein, Director of Rambam’s Blood Bank and Platelet Immunology Laboratories, shares: “Our goal is to obtain platelet donations. Obtaining therapeutic doses from a donor can only be done using a special machine that extracts platelets without any red or white blood cells. But these platelets are critical – patients who don’t have platelets bleed to death.”

Dr. Bonstein explains that each donation Lavi has made provides three therapeutic doses of platelets. In actual practice, due to his AB blood type being a match for everyone, Lavi’s donations are used mainly for trauma victims.

A Gift That Makes a Difference

Today, Lavi finds fulfillment through regular platelet donations. He knows that not all recipients of his platelets will survive their disease, but his is still making a difference: “I give patients the hope of not having to chase after platelet doses. Even if, in the end, they don’t survive, at least I’ve made life easier for them and their families during this difficult process.”

Dr. Bonstein concludes, “Ofer has helped at least 500 people. We now have a premature baby on a heart-lung machine who is receiving Lavi’s platelets every day. Ofer is a firefighter who is an angel!”

For more information about making platelet donations at Rambam Health Care Campus, can contact the Blood Bank and Platelet Immunology Laboratories.

This article was based on the translation of an original news item published in Hebrew on Ynet.