More than 50 years ago, at the age of 22, Marc A. Satalof donated his first pint of blood at the Hospital of Pennsylvania (HUP) to ensure that his mother, who was going in for surgery, would have blood if she needed any. She didn’t (and is still thriving at age 101), but Satalof would go on to donate many more pints after that—279 more.
On Nov. 15, 2023, Satalof, now 76, returned to Penn Medicine to give his 280th and final pint, marking 35 gallons of blood donated over his adult life.
When the longtime donor decided this would be his last, his primary care physician Kristin G. Christensen, MD, regional medical director of Penn Primary Care, based at Penn Medicine Radnor, sought to recognize Satalof and the impact of his more than five decades of consistent giving.
“Mr. Satalof is a kind and generous soul who has helped to save many lives through his 54 years of blood donation,” Christensen said. “I am humbled by his dedication to serving his community in this way. I am grateful that he is receiving recognition for his great act of service, and I am hopeful that his story will inspire others to donate and carry on his mission after he ‘retires.’”
Satalof said he took great pride in knowing that his many donations have potentially helped up to 840 people over the years. One pint of whole blood can be separated into three different parts—one unit of red blood cells, one unit of plasma, and one unit of platelets—for up to three different patients. Satalof agreed to share his story in hopes that it might motivate others to consider donating, in which case he will have accomplished “yet another really great thing.”
“If, God forbid, someone needs blood, if they’re transported to a hospital because of a car accident or a surgical procedure, and they need blood, that blood needs to be there for them or they’ll die, and that’s determined by people continuing to donate blood,” he said.
Dressed in a vintage American Red Cross T-shirt, which he wears to all blood drives, Satalof gave his last pint at a Red Cross blood drive at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. It was steps away from HUP, where he had not only given that first pint of blood, but where he had also worked many weekends as a teenager transporting patients to surgeries and back to their rooms. Surrounded by news media, Satalof kissed his wife, Elyse—to whom he’s been married nearly as long as he’s been giving blood—and told her he loved her. Then, lying on the black donation cot as he made his last donation, he asked some of the reporters and communications officers gathered around him if they had been convinced to participate in the blood drive themselves.
A lifelong dedication to service
In the years following his first donation, Satalof, a self-described “very goal-oriented” person innately driven to help the less fortunate, initially set his mind to donate 200 pints, or 25 gallons of blood. As he worked 33 years with the Philadelphia School District, first as a science teacher and later as a principal; raised two children; and then began an active retirement, Satalof diligently donated blood as often as the Red Cross allowed, with few exceptions, consistently giving between four and six pints of blood per year.
“If you’ve been blessed with good health and a good heart, you know that there are a lot of people in the world who are a lot less fortunate than you are, and any way you can help those people, you are performing a great service to them,” he said, adding he has felt that way as long as he can remember. “When I realized that regular donations were something I’d be able to do, I made a conscientious effort to set a goal.”
Satalof didn’t just donate as often as he could; he also worked hard in support of the Red Cross, chairing several blood drives for both the school district and his Upper Gwynedd community, and speaking at several donor recognition functions. He said he was always gratified to hear from those he had influenced to give more blood.
“Someone would come up and say, ‘I’ve donated two pints of blood,’ and I would say, ‘That makes you a very special person.’ Anybody who donates any blood is truly a special person,” he said. “Then I would encounter that person a couple of years later at another function like that, and they would come up to me and say, ‘I just donated my 10th pint of blood, and you’re the reason why I’ve been so conscientious about doing that.’… That is really the most special thing.”
When Satalof hit his initial goal of 25 gallons about 20 years ago, he said to himself, “‘You still feel good, you’re in good health, there’s no reason to stop,’” Satalof said. “And I continued my donations with the understanding that if donating blood ever compromised my own health, that it be time to stop.”
The final milestone
In recent years, Satalof developed mild anemia, and he and Christensen agreed that he should conserve his blood for his own body. He decided 35 gallons would be a good milestone at which to sunset this particular pursuit.
“Thirty-five gallons is tremendously impressive,” said Jennifer Graham, regional CEO for American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania. Only 3% of eligible blood donors actually donate, according to the Red Cross, which makes Satalof’s generosity even more extraordinary. “Marc’s generosity undoubtedly helped countless patients recover from illness and injury over the past 50 years, and we are incredibly grateful for his lifesaving gift. In times of disaster, it’s the blood already on the shelves that helps save lives. Marc’s commitment–and that of those like him–makes our mission possible.”
Satalof said the endeavor of donating his last pint of blood was somewhat melancholy, after nearly a lifetime of giving, but he continues to give to the less fortunate in many other ways, including delivering meals to the less fortunate and other volunteering when he’s not doing things like traveling the world with his wife or enjoying time with his children and grandchildren.
“It’s been a long road, but it’s time to stop,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed these 50-plus years and I know that many people have benefited.”
Visit the Red Cross to learn more about blood donation or to find a blood drive near you. Those near Lancaster can also donate through the Blood Donor Center at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health.