By Reggie Ellis

Days after the tragic wreck that severed both of his legs, 150 people - more than triple the average - showed up to donate blood for Exeter Police Office Rick Grimsley.

At last Thursday's Exeter Community Blood Drive he was finally able to return the favor.

"It is nice to be able to give back for all that I have been given," Grimsley said.

The blood drive marked the first time Grimsley has been able to give blood after being in and out of surgery the last two years to extend his right leg for stability. That is a necessary step to being fitted for prosthetic legs, something Grimsley said should happen next year. He said without the overwhelming support of the community he wouldn't be here today.

"At the scene [of the wreck] I lost nearly all the blood in my body," Grimsley said. "These people [donating blood] gave me a second chance at life."

DARE Officer Armon Estrada was riding with Grimsley that night. He was the first to see Grimsley pinned between the two vehicles and tied the tourniquets on his legs that slowed the blood flow and prevented further blood loss. The horrific memory is still something he has been reluctant to talk about.

However, he did say that he has been donating ever since the first Exeter blood drive following the wreck.

"It's one of those things where once you start you just keep coming back," he said.

Anna, Rick's wife, said she hasn't missed a blood drive since the wreck and donates every eight weeks, the minimum time allowed for your body to replenish a pint of blood.

"I never had donated before the accident," she said. "You don't think about it until someone you love needs it."

Statistics show that eventually everyone will know someone who needs blood or needs blood themselves. In fact, more than 95 percent of the American population will need blood in their lifetime, but less than 5 percent of the population give blood on a regular basis.

Exeter's Blood Drive is conducted by the Central California Blood Center which provides blood and plasma to 30 hospitals throughout the Central Valley. Those hospitals require a combined 250 pints of blood per day. The next Exeter Community Blood Drive will be from 4-7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 8 at the Exeter Woman's Club, located at 201 N. Kaweah Ave.

Blood donation takes less than one hour to complete. Donors must be in good health, weigh a minimum of 110 pounds and be at least 17 years old. Senior citizens are encouraged to donate, as there is no upper age limit. Donors can give blood every eight weeks. Lasagna and homemade cookies will be served.

The Blood Center's Visalia branch, located at 1515 S. Mooney Blvd., is open for donations year-round. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays. For more information call the blood center at 625-3121.

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