Tom & Alex Schutte

A Family Affair

For Tom and Alex Schutte, saving lives runs in the family. The father and son duo, who hail from Kennedy Heights, are committed platelet donors for Hoxworth Blood Center. But their story is special -- because when Alex's father, Tom, could no longer donate, Alex rolled up his sleeve in his father's place.

Tom was a regular platelet donor of more than 30 years until he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in spring of 2009. Surgery eliminated his cancer, but he was deferred from donating for five years -- a definite disappointment for the longtime donor.

Alex and Tom Schutte in wedding tuxes

He even got a tattoo of the Hoxworth blood drop to "represent the giving he could no longer participate in," his son Alex says.

But seeing his father unable to participate in the lifesaving work he had done for so many years spurred Alex to recommit himself to being a lifesaver. 

"My dad was always so regular in his donations and wore his arm bandage with pride when he returned home from work after giving earlier that day," Alex said. "His deferral motivated me to get more active in my donations. I wanted to donate when I could -- because my dad no longer could."

Alex's commitment is no surprise to Tom, though. "Alex has always impressed me most with his generosity and concern for others," Tom said. "When he posted a selfie from a Hoxworth apheresis couch a few months ago, a great big smile crossed my face and I thought, 'That is so Alex!'"

Now, Tom can once again join his son in saving lives -- several years after his surgery, Tom is still cancer free, and he returned to donating platelets in July of 2014. The donating duo also encourages other potential donors to join the cause and save a life.

"The only thing it takes to donate is time, and the biggest benefit received from your donation is time -- time given back to the lives of those who are fighting medical battles," Alex says.

Tom agrees, saying "those of us who donate are filling a real need."

"Society works best when we each do what we can," Tom encourages, "and donating just makes you feel good knowing that you did good for others."