There was no big tent or bands or anything else to show that something special was happening Friday afternoon inside the Friendship United Methodist Church southeast of Rock Hill.
Just a van with the words “Community Blood Center of the Carolinas” on it, and health care professionals inside wearing green scrubs.
What was special was why people came in, quietly, and gave blood. They gave because somebody needs it. And because somebody special to them had received blood just like what would be pumped out of arms in the church fellowship hall.
In May, Wayne Vinson II was the most severely burned of four employees injured when a pipe exploded at the Resolute Forest Products paper mill not more than a few miles from the church where the blood drive was held.
Sodium hydroxide, a chemical that softens wood chips, injured four workers at the plant that was called Bowater for decades, and still is, by the people of this area.
Vinson was burned over 70 percent of his body. Until this week when Vinson came home, he was a patient at Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital of Augusta.
Vinson has had so many blood transfusions and surgeries that the number of pints used on him is a number almost too high to count. That’s why there was a blood drive Friday – all the donations head directly to the burn center, to patients who will die without blood from strangers.
Vinson the man, a good guy from a good family by all accounts, is why some people gave of their own bodies Friday.
“I worked at Bowaters myself; I worked with Wayne’s daddy,” said a guy waiting to give blood named Robert McKeown. “I worked in production, as a supervisor on the paper machine.”
That’s why McKeown, retired 13 years, came out and gave a pint of his blood. Making a tough buck while “working at Bowaters” was a way of life in York County for 50 years, and still is for hundreds of people.
You work on a production line with somebody for years, the bond is steel strong.
In a chair nearby sat a man who said his name was William P. Gregory.
Gregory had a handshake like an iron vise – still, at 79. He, too, worked a lifetime at that Bowater plant and knew the older Wayne Vinson, father of the man who was burned.
“I am here to help,” Gregory proclaimed, and that is exactly what he did, with his blood.
Several others who know Vinson, or worked with him or his father, showed up.
Wayne Vinson II is married with two kids. In one of the chairs, giving blood, was his wife’s sister, Crystal Williams. Williams talked about the heroic battle Wayne has fought to survive, the weeks in a coma, the surgeries and skin grafts.
How Cynthia Vinson, Wayne’s wife, has remained steadfast by his side.
“Wayne has never given up, and Cynthia has never given up,” Williams said. “None of us will give up.”
The incident at the plant remains under investigation by federal and state officials, and a cause of the burst pipe has not been released.
Since the May 19 incident, so many people have reached out to the Vinson family to offer support and prayers, food and money. Coworkers have cut the grass and done household chores.
All the kinds of things that Wayne Vinson II did for people hurt or broke or in trouble, before he himself was hurt.
In another chair sat a guy named Chuck Plyler, who never met Wayne Vinson or his father or anyone else involved in the incident where the workers were burned.
But Plyler has spent a life working at Duke Energy, working hard with his hands and back like Wayne Vinson did before he was hurt, so he showed up at the church to give blood.
“I just wanted to help somebody,” Plyler said.
A Winthrop student named Michael Love, just 20, gave blood and had never met Wayne Vinson or even heard of him.
He gave anyway.
Want to read more?
To see Cynthia Vinson’s online journal, go to caringbridge.org/visit/waynevinson2.
Want to help?
Contact any Arrow Pointe Federal Credit Union branch to donate to individual funds set up for Wayne Vinson II and the three other employees who were injured.