Thirty years ago, 49-year-old Marquette native Mark Johnson donated his first pint of blood and never looked back. Friday, he made his 600th donation to the U.P. Regional Blood Center, a milestone he never saw coming all those years ago.
"It's a little mind blowing when I think about it to get that many donations. I never thought I'd reach it. I just started doing it and the next thing you know I'm at 400, 500, and then I set the goal for 600," said Johnson.
It's part of his routine now, but it's not always the same thing every time.
"Today I'm doing triple platelets..." Johnson said. That's a donation that takes one to two hours. The platelets are bagged and stored for up to five days, but they will likely be used within three days.
Mark donates platelets about 24 times a year along with six whole blood donations, totaling 30 donations a year. To break down the math, that's more than 720 platelet donations and about 180 pints of blood in 30 years. For reference, the human body only has about 10 pints of blood.
The staff and other regular donors have all become friends with Mark and appreciate his loyalty. Each milestone is a celebration. For number 600, the Blood Center had food and cake to share with everyone.
For his milestone donation, Mark tried to invite as many friends and family as possible to donate with him, so I thought I'd lend a hand. There's always a need for more at the Blood Center.
"By being a regular blood donor and coming into the U.P. Regional Blood Center, you're going to ensure that there's blood there for somebody that you may not know, or maybe you will know at some point in your life," said Sallie Coron, Coordinator of Blood Collections.
The Blood Center supplies 13 hospitals across 12 counties in the U.P., and that's part of the appeal for Mark.
"We have enough things going against us up here. It's nice to know that I could be helping out a neighbor one day," Johnson said.
No one donates more than Mark at the Blood Center by a long shot. He already has his eyes set on donation number 700 that he should meet in about four years.
"I'm going to keep doing it until they tell me I can't anymore," Johnson said.
His next donation is in two weeks for whole blood and platelets.
"The needle coming out is the best part," Johnson said.
Johnson says that even if you're afraid of needles, just give it a shot at least once.