Four times a year, Arnie Diedrich of Ringwood dedicates his time and energy to organizing one of the largest blood drives in McHenry County.
The 64-year-old retired construction worker and farmer believes strongly in giving back and helping those he doesn’t know.
However, the dire need for blood drives hit very close to home for Diedrich three years ago.
His son Matt was nearly killed in an industrial accident in Freeport while working on rock crushers for gravel pits. One of the pieces slipped, and six tons of steel fell on top of him, pinning him underneath.
“He had shattered vertebras, and his pelvis and ankle were broken,” Diedrich says. “I saw him every day. He had been in the intensive care unit for 10 days.”
His son required many surgeries, plus more than a dozen blood transfusions.
“That’s why I do blood drives,” Diedrich says. “You never know when anybody will need it, but it has to be there.”
When Diedrich sat in the hospital waiting room, he spoke with a loved one of another ICU patient.
“I talked about giving blood,” he says. “They said their son had taken 20 units of blood already. They were thanking me for what I do. But the thanks should go to the people that walk through the door of a blood drive to give. I’m just a go-between.”
Although his son is doing well except for some aches and pains from the injuries, the incident inspired Diedrich even more to continue his passion to collect more and more blood for other families who are in need.
A Huge Success
Diedrich works with Heartland Blood Centers to host his blood drives, and the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus sponsors the drives at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Johnsburg.
At the end of 2011, Heartland announced that among its 208 donation areas, Diedrich’s blood drives brought in more than 450 blood units for the year — second only to the village of Lombard. While an admirable feat, to put that number into perspective, 600 blood units are needed on average each day in the Chicago area, says Michelle Dodd, a marketing representative for Heartland.
However, Dodd still wishes more people with Diedrich’s ambition and selflessness could help at all her blood drives.
“He is the most dedicated coordinator I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with,” she says. “He [took] it to heart even before his son needed so many transfusions. I wish I could clone him. If we had more Arnies in the world, blood drives wouldn’t be a problem.”
Diedrich paints signs that sit along the roadways advertising drives. Heartland gives him 10 pages with 36 names on each page of potential donors, and he calls each one of them with the help of volunteers.
Then, they call donors again right before the drive to remind them of the date and time they should arrive. His wife, Barb, also helps out with the drives, greeting people all day long and working at the desk.
The Johnsburg blood drive requires 15 beds because so many people come through. During the last blood drive Diedrich hosted in March, 120 units of blood were collected.
Many of Diedrich’s donors come to all four drives each year, he says. Diedrich, himself, has donated 72 units of blood since the 1990s.
He also participates in double red cell donations — which involves much more testing than a regular blood donation, Dodd says.
Continuing To Give
Diedrich’s volunteerism doesn’t end with blood drives. He also donates profits from his farming to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“His heart is really remarkable,” Dodd says.
And he offers a helping hand to others when possible.
He recently worked with a neighboring farmer to take the steel roof off of the farmer’s barn. However, something went awry.
“I took a wrong step, and I fell 8 feet down and landed on concrete. I broke my hip,” he says.
Diedrich underwent surgery for his hip and for his shoulder. But, by his next blood drive, he hopes to be his old self again.
The next St. John’s/Knights of Columbus blood drive will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 30 at the church at 2302 W. Church St., in Johnsburg. For more information, call Diedrich at 815-728-1848 or visit www.heartlandbc.org/drives.html.