Bob Hurkett doesn’t know what became of the little girl he first heard of in 1998, but he thinks about her often. She was 5 years old and needed a bone marrow transplant. Hurkett and his wife, Jane, attended a donor drive hosted by the girl’s family where their blood was drawn and tested as a possible match.
Neither was a match but Hurkett felt compelled to help. When he learned about the need for platelets – which are vitally important for cancer patients as a means of replacing their own depleted supplies, as well as for trauma victims and other critically ill adults and children –he volunteered to donate.
That was 15 years ago. Earlier this month, Hurkett completed his 300th platelet donation at what is now the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. All of the blood products collected at the Kraft Center benefit patients at both institutions.
“I had lost my father to cancer a couple years before, but that girl was the big motivation,” says Hurkett, age 65. “I never even knew her name, but as soon as I came here I felt like helping as much as I could.”
Mission accomplished. A father of four, including triplets, Hurkett made time to come in twice monthly for 90-minute platelet donations while also volunteering at blood and bone marrow drives for Dana-Farber throughout the state.
“Bob is always out there engaging with people, encouraging them to become donors,” says Malissa Lichtenwalter, supervisor of blood donor recruitment at the Kraft Center. “It’s a serious commitment, but he explains it thoughtfully and passionately so people understand what they are getting into.”
At his 300th donation, Hurkett had a companion in the bed next to him: his daughter Molly, giving platelets for the sixth time. All Bob’s children – 21-year-old triplets Molly, Peter, and Joe, and older sister Sarah – and his wife are registered as potential stem cell donors, and Joe’s first stem cell donation is scheduled for late January.
“Growing up with my dad, we understood the influence we could have on other people,” says Molly Hurkett, a nursing student at Sacred Heart University who hopes to work in pediatric oncology after her May graduation. “I’m sure it’s a big reason I’ve always wanted to be a nurse.”
Listening from a few feet away, her dad smiles. If he ever slows down, Hurkett knows his children will carry on the family tradition of giving back.
Cancer patients are in need of not just platelets, but also whole blood and red blood cells. If you’re interested in helping, you can learn more by visiting the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center or calling 888-LETSGIV or 617-632-3206. You can also learn about the National Marrow Donor Program and stem cell donation here, or by calling 866-875-DFCI (3324)