When you or someone you love needs blood, time is of the essence and if it isn’t available they might not live. That supply is maintained by people who dedicate their lives to make sure inventory levels are maintained, quality is monitored and lives are saved. You want someone you can count on to maintain the precision and intensity needed to monitor it all 24/7. My friend Keith is that guy. You can set your clock by him and I want you to have the same peace of mind I do because you know the watchman on the wall. Meet Keith, he’s good people.
BRIAN: I mean this with all do kindness, you aint from here. Will you tell folks a little about where you grew up and how it shaped you as a person?
KEITH: I grew up in Gary, WV – a small coal mining town in the southern part of the state. It was a thriving area when the mines were working. There was a strong sense of community – you knew your neighbors and, for that matter, most of the people around town. People looked out for each other. Technology in the 60’s and 70’s wasn’t what it is now, so most of my time growing up was spent with my twin brother and all of the other neighborhood kids playing ball, riding bikes, and anything else we could get into without getting into trouble! I think being raised in such a community-minded town has a definite effect on how you look at things later in life.
BRIAN: Family is an important factor for you as it is for everybody around this region. Why do you make that drive to Knoxville every weekend instead of just taking it easy around the house?
KEITH: I mentioned my twin brother….he lives and works in Knoxville. Our mother (and stepfather until his passing) lived with him for about 12 years now, so he’s been there for family. There have been times in the past when I allowed life to get in the way…I don’t want that to happen now. Plus, there’s a bond between twins that’s hard to explain. We have a lot in common, as you can imagine, so it’s fun hanging out and doing things that we both enjoy.
BRIAN: I reference “this region” quite a bit. You could take a job anywhere in the country you wanted, but you choose to stay here. What about this place and these people makes you want to live here?
KEITH: I love this area! In a way, Kingsport reminds me of the town I grew up in. It’s a great community with hard-working, down to earth people. I like the small town feel, yet there’s a lot to do here. As for the people…I don’t think you can find better folks anywhere. Friends here are like family. That’s quality you just don’t find in other places.
BRIAN: I know you and we have had long conversations about this topic. Why is your faith so important to you? And how does it affect your daily choices and decisions?
KEITH: I was almost 35 years old when I accepted Christ. Until that time, I thought I had things pretty well under control, but that wasn’t the case. We can’t do this on our own. I fall short every day, and I have a LONG way to go, but I have a hope and assurance now that I didn’t have before. As for choices and decisions, I still make my share of wrong ones. Faith doesn’t make you perfect. I just have to strive to do better today than yesterday, and better tomorrow than today. The reward of eternal life with Christ is worth it.
BRIAN: Your work with inventory might sound less important than it is to some people who don’t understand what you do. How do you explain the importance to those who ask and how can they educate themselves more?
KEITH: Managing inventory in a Blood Bank is a bit more complicated than it sounds. Without getting too technical, there are different blood products with different blood types that have to be distributed between multiple hospitals and cancer centers. Blood products have limited shelf lives too, so they have to be rotated constantly. Occasionally, there are needs for special blood products that we don’t have in our inventory, so those must be sourced from a network of qualified blood banks outside of our region. It really is a 24/7/365 operation. I work with a team of professionals that makes it appear easy, but you can be sure that a tremendous amount of work went into making sure that blood was available when someone needed it. Of course, none of this happens without volunteer blood donations. The best way to become educated is to participate. We’ve talked a bit about community. Chances are good that the blood you donate will help someone you know. It’s a great feeling.