November 20, 2009


Blood donations save Pitcher man

‘Pie for a Pint’ drive is Wednesday

DonationsDavid Blatchley/contributing photographer
Rod Comolli of Pitcher putts on the green at the Knickerbocker Golf Course this week. The retired teacher is still enjoying his golf game, thanks to life saving blood donations, after a tractor accident a couple of years ago.

Living and Leisure Editor

Rod Comolli said he used to donate blood to the American Red Cross in his younger days, until he got busy teaching. Instead of giving his time, he gave financially.
But then the day came when someone else’s blood donations saved the Pitcher man’s life. The 62-year-old, who suffered a tractor accident and lost a leg, is now a regular blood donor.
“That changed my whole outlook about donating. My wife, Brenda, she started right away donating ... A year after my operations, after satisfying the Red Cross’ requirements, I started donating.”
The Cortland County American Red Cross is hosting a special “Cortland County Cares” blood drive on Wednesday. The goal is to collect 135 units of blood and all donors will receive a Thanksgiving pie and T-shirt for their time. At a typical blood drive, ARC officials collect between 25 and 45 units, said Jeanie Everton, program coordinator at the local chapter. A unit is about a pint of blood.
“We’re trying to make people aware of the need for blood around the holidays,” said Everton. The drive will take place noon to 6:30 p.m. at the J.M. McDonald’s Sports Complex in Cortlandville. People are encouranged to sign up by by Tuesday at 607-753-1182.
“Collections start to decrease in the holiday season. People get so busy,” Everton said. “The need for blood doesn’t go away. Sometimes it increases because of the holidays, with more travel and accidents,” she said.
Donating blood takes about an hour and the Red Cross will boost its staff to accommodate extra demand, Everton said. “We need blood donors,” she said. The chapter is looking for 162 appointments and is halfway there now. Those who would like to donate a non-refrigerated pie would be welcome. Call Everton at the above number.
Comolli a retired fifth-grade elementary teacher in the Homer School District, was brush hogging out in his field one day in 2007. He was driving a tractor with a large lawn mowing machine with a six foot blade, dragging it behind him.
“I fell off the tractor and the brush hogger ran over my legs. I lost my left leg and my right leg was chewed up,” he said. “I had four operations,” he said.
He needed 22 pints of blood through the whole ordeal, he said. Comolli needed seven pints, the amount that seven people donate in an hour at an American Red Cross blood drive, that night in Upstate Hospital in Syracuse.
“I was out in the field for an hour, waiting to be found,” he said of the day of the accident. “I was down pretty good.”
Comolli’s wife, Brenda, a teacher at OCM BOCES, came home and found her husband and sought help immediately. Comolli said he tried to put a tourniquet on, but what happened is sketchy. The tractor kept going after he fell off and it drove into pine trees about 30 feet away. He knew he had a bungee cord on the tractor. He figured he could make a tourniquet for his legs with the bungee cord. He dragged himself toward the tractor to get to the cord. His theory is, dragging his legs through the grass packed grass and dirt in, helping to slow down the flow of the blood.
“I needed another 15 pints through the next operations,” he said. “It took them two opeations to get all the grass out of the leg that I lost. That’s how packed in it was.”
“You stop and think, without (blood) donations, I was a goner,” he said. “Come on, what’s your excuse for not donating?” he says to himself. “Someone saved my life. I have to turn around and do the same. It’s a whole different outlook when something like that happens.”
Today Comolli has a prosthetic leg and he uses it to the max, golfing and walking his dog over two miles. He and his wife enjoy traveling to warm climates where he can golf. “I do have a great wife,” he said. “I have done 118 rounds of golf since my accident.”
He remembers thinking in that field that day: “The best scenario, I will be alive.
“I think I am extremely lucky, too.”


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