Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Platelet donor Pete Clouthier

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KENOSHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Pete Clouthier can help save a life in less than two hours, and it's something he's been doing since the 1980s. He has donated platelets more than 400 times, which puts him on a very short list of donors in Wisconsin.

"I'm ready," Clouthier said as he made his way into the Versiti Blood Center in Kenosha.

After all these years, Clouthier knows the drill. About twice a month, he visits the blood center to give a life-saving gift. 

"See? Nice and easy," he said, as a staff member gets the donation going.

He's done it so many times, he has scar tissue built up in his arm.

"Hilda's been stabbing me for years," he said with a laugh. "If I have my druthers I always use my left."

Each time, Clouthier donates platelets, and he's donated a lot.

"They tell me 410," he said about the number of times. "I started back in the late '80s."

The machine takes Clouthier's blood and separates out the platelets before returning the blood to his body. With an A-positive blood type, his donation is often matched ahead of time, so he has an idea of where his platelets are going. On this day, he said they'll be given to a woman in Waukesha.

"This is part of her chemotherapy, and you never know what happens to them," he said of the patient.

That small connection, though, is one of the many things that keeps him going.

"Oh, I like that," he said. "You know, they don't give you much information. They say these are going up to Froedtert, or St. Luke's or whatever."

Clouthier's efforts have gotten noticed.

"We treasure all of our donors, but we consider Pete a superhero," said Chris Miskel.

Miskel is Versiti's president and CEO, and a platelet donor himself.

"So as the leader of the organization, I wanted to lead from the front, and there aren't many things that you can do that with two hours you can save a life," Miskel said.

Miskel has got a ways to go to catch up to Pete, but he has donated platelets more than 70 times himself. Miskel explained why platelets are so needed.

"Platelets are really used for clotting. So, if you think about a patient that's a burn victim, a premature baby, maybe someone with cancer, platelets can help jump start the immune system," he said.

It's an important resource that only lasts outside of the body for five days.

"The need is great. Donation is an easy way to help the community," Miskel said.

Clouthier got his start donating platelets by registering to be a bone marrow donor. Instead, though, he got a different call.

"This guy says, 'we have a 3-year-old girl who needs platelets. Can you come?' And 'you're a match,'" Cloutier remembered. "I've been going up ever since. The rest is history."

Clouthier's contribution was celebrated last fall when he hit 400 donations.

"I still have the balloons. The one is pretty flat, but the 400 is still pretty good," Pete's wife, Kathleen Clouthier, said with a laugh.

The couple has been married 48 years.

"I feel he is a hero. That he donates these platelets, if he can, every couple of weeks," she said.

She's not surprised he's kept it up all these years.,

"Knowing him, yeah. He's a giving sort of person," she said.

To give you an idea how many platelets are in 410 donations, Versiti said it is more than 50 gallons worth. Clouthier has also donated bone marrow to a cousin, and he's gotten other family members involved in donating, too.

"I mean, I got my brother donating platelets out in the Seattle area, my brother-in-law up in Rhinelander," he said.

Less than two hours after his donation started, Clouthier was wiggling his fingers to get the feeling back. A little tired, and ready for a nap, but his good deed done for the day.

"It's something worth doing," he said. "You get a very good feeling when you do it, and you quite literally save lives."

Versiti said the summer months are always a time of high demand for donations. For more information on donating blood or platelets, you can visit Saving Lives Together | Versiti.

If you'd like to nominate an Everyday Hero, send Natalie a message at [email protected]

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