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After donating 10 gallons of blood over decades, one Corpus Christi woman still has more to give

Annie Bilano donates platelets every two weeks to the Coastal Bend Blood Center -- something she considers to be 'life' in a bag.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Blood donor Annie Bilano knew about the importance of blood donations at an early age -- her mom was a former director of the Coastal Bend Blood Center.

She started donating whole blood in her 20s, eventually donating plasma after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

Now at 59 years old, she donates platelets every two weeks.

There's three types of donations: whole blood, plasma, and platelet. Bilano has donated all three throughout her life. But when her husband got sick, it meant more to her than ever before.

"When he was found to have a blood cancer, it then became personal to me," Bilano said. "People's lives literally depend on it, you know, and it's very humbling for me knowing that I'm doing something that's could very well be helping someone stay alive."

3NEWS is partnering with the Coastal Bend Blood Center outside the studio from noon to 5 p.m for the O-Snap Blood Drive on Friday. 

The center said its goal is to get 120 pints of blood donations daily. 

The process takes about 35 minutes.

Bilano's husband has a blood cancer that can be treated with platelets, but she hasn't been asked to donate to help him yet. Instead, she provided the blood center with 10 gallons of all three types of donations. Every single time, she does not leave without scheduling another appointment two weeks out.

"That, right there, is amazing to us and that's what we need," said Ashley Ramirez, community relations and education coordinator for the Coastal Bend Blood Center. "We need more consistent donors, more regular donors because that's what's going to make the difference here for your local blood center."

Reaching the blood center's donation goal of 120 pints of blood is how it can provide for 10 counties and 23 medical facilities. Ramirez said multiple lives can be saved with just one donation. 

"We need to hit that goal every single day because one incident could completely deplete us of our blood supply," Ramirez said. 

Bilano said her husband is being treated at the Coastal Bend Cancer Center. Despite the challenges of overcoming his cancer, she said her husband remains proud of what she's doing. It's something she said makes her feel good and encourages everyone to donate blood if they can. 

"That's life inside that bag," Bilano said. "You know, so I just totally believe and I try to talk people into going to the blood bank and making donations, and it's so important."

Donation requirements are that the person has to be 17 years old, have a photo ID, fill out a questionnaire, and have their iron and blood pressure checked. The center currently has campaigns for blood donations. 

Throughout 2023, people who donate twice will have a chance to win a $1,000 gift card.

Bilano said her platelet donations usually last about an hour to an hour and a half -- something she says is well worth it to save lives.

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