By Ryan Bergeron, CNN
(CNN) — It only took one blood donation to save Marcos Perez’s life.
He’s now paid that donation forward more than 960 times.
According to the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center, his blood has helped over 3,000 people.
“Mr. Perez’s story is very moving and emotional because you know why he does it — it saved his life, ” said Roger Ruiz, corporate communications specialist for nonprofit BioBridge Global.
The gift of life
Perez was born prematurely and needed a blood transfusion.
“Back then, there were no blood banks so my dad had to go ask his relatives and friends to donate blood for me.
It was one of his friends that saved my life,” Perez told CNN.
Perez first donated blood while still in high school. He said after serving four years in the Air Force, he began donating plasma and platelets on a regular basis.
Now, over 37 years later, Perez is celebrating his 962nd donation which puts him in a rare category of blood donors — it marked his 120th gallon of blood given.
“Mr. Perez is an unusual case because you don’t have too many 100-gallon donors,” said Ruiz. “He’s saving lives every day.”
Perez donates plasma and platelets instead of whole blood because it allows him to donate up to 24 times a year. Perez says he plans to continue to donate every two weeks until “they say you can’t,” and hopes others will follow his lead.
“One man can’t do it alone. We need to all work together. If we all work together and everybody goes to donate, those shelves will be fully stocked.”
Roll up and make a difference
The last year has been particularly hard for blood banks.
Ruiz says that blood banks across the country, not just in southern Texas where Perez lives, are in dire need of donations.
“The pandemic has really hurt us, and across the United States blood drives have been canceled because of the pandemic and social distancing,” Ruiz said. “We definitely need more people like Mr. Perez to please step up and donate.”
The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center plans to recognize Mr. Perez and two other 100-plus gallon donors when they come in to give blood on the same day.
“It’s like the all-stars of blood donors coming together for one time. You have your Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan and Tom Brady coming together to do what they do best and give blood.”
Ruiz is quick to point out that you don’t have to be a superstar athlete or superhero to make a difference. All you have to do is roll up your sleeve.
“We don’t all wear capes, but this is one way we can all be heroes for our community.” Ruiz added, “If Mr. Perez’s story moves you, please call your local blood center, set up a donation and be the next 100-gallon donor.”
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