Cousins’ friendly competition saves hundreds of lives

For years, cousins Grace Kloppenburg and Laurie Pustka have engaged in a friendly competition over blood and platelets donations.

Together the cousins have donated more than 40 gallons of blood and platelets, helping hundreds of South Texas patients.

“Donating this many gallons is probably one of the biggest accomplishments I have done,” Grace said. “I can only imagine the people that it’s helped. I wish a lot of other people could do that.”

Laurie has been donating off and on since her senior year in high school, and a few years ago, she encouraged Grace to come with her to donate. Since then, the cousins try to come in at least twice a month to the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center donor room in Victoria.

Grace also donates in honor of her mother, who passed away from pancreatic cancer.

She recalls her mother having a low platelet count and requiring several transfusions.

“We are trying to make a difference in people’s lives,” said Laurie. “It feels like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do and help people.”

Grace and Laurie will continue the friendly competition this Saturday when they are both scheduled to donate platelets at 9 a.m. at the STBTC Victoria Donor room.

“Being a 20-gallon donor makes me feel very humble and grateful that I can give and do not have to receive it,” Laurie said.

To encourage donations, all donors in June will receive a $10 Valero fuel card and a $5 Sonic gift card.

To help boost critical supplies, type O and platelet donors will receive a $20 Valero card and a $5 Sonic card. Type O blood is used in emergencies.

Platelets, which have a shelf life of only five days, are often used for cancer patients, as well as emergencies.

For more information about the blood donation process or to schedule a donation, volunteers are encouraged to call 210-731- 5590.

Anyone wishing to donate blood must present identification. Donors under the age of 16 must have a signed parental consent form and weigh at least 120 pounds. Anyone over the age of 17 may donate and must be in general good health and weigh at least 110 pounds.

All donors are encouraged to eat well and adequately hydrate before and after donation.

Refreshments and snacks are provided to donors. In addition, all donors receive a wellness check.

Learn more about blood donation at

The information in this article is from a press release sent by Roger Ruiz, Corporate Communications Specialist with the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center.