When middle-school teacher Rick Bliss lectures his applied arts students about safety, he works in a little plug for blood donation: “Donating blood is a good thing — but not in wood shop.”
“Do you want to know how much blood I’ve donated?” he’ll ask them, lifting two, 5-gallon buckets. “This much.”
Actually, Bliss hasn’t donated 10 gallons of blood. The total is closer to 12.5 gallons, or about 100 pounds — more than some of his students at Eugene’s Cal Young Middle School weigh.
Bliss recently achieved a milestone few will ever reach. On May 2, he gave blood for the 100th time with Lane Blood Center. And he did it on his 66th birthday, surrounded by friends and loved ones.
Two of those friends donated for the first time that day. His partner, Madalyn Patterson, gave blood for the 18th time. She hadn’t donated blood before dating Bliss, but he soon convinced her. “It’s an easy way to help out folks who are in distress,” she says.
She’s right: Each pint of donated blood can be used to save as many as three lives. That means Bliss may have helped save 300 people since he began donating here in his 30s. (He had donated previously in California, too.)
So, why does he do it? “I have a strong pulse, low blood pressure, big veins, and I like to eat food,” he says. “I lead a clean lifestyle, so I’m a good candidate.”
In a few years, he’ll retire from teaching, and with that extra time he plans to try platelet pheresis, a donation procedure that separates platelets from the blood. The process takes longer, but depending on the amount of platelets collected, it may count as two donations.
Bliss offers these words of encouragement to people deciding whether blood donation is right for them: “It makes you feel good all over.”