Bill Cell never looked down at his right arm while the last pint of the 85-year-old's 85th gallon of blood pumped out from it on Friday.
Cell is the undisputable highest-contributing donor bested his own record at the Bonfils Blood Center's Westminster, Colo., location, retaining a 15-gallon lead on the next-highest donors.
Bob Roberts, north-metro Denver regional manager for Bonfils, offered to get Cell a beverage early in his 90-minute appointment — an amenity that, along with snacks, is available to every donor.
“Nah, I'm fine since you don't have bourbon,” Cell said, starting in on the story that's been heard by nearly every phlebotomist who has drawn his blood. “That's what I miss about the old days.”
Cell first gave blood in 1946, when he said cash and insurance incentives drew him to hospital blood drives. He started donating more frequently after the 1960s, though, when he received nothing in return.
“They'll tell me what my blood went for, like a cancer patient or an accident victim,” Cell said, explaining why he returns to the plastic donation beds. “I have met a couple of people who needed it.”
He recalled meeting the survivor of a car accident in Denver, who needed more than 200 pints of stored blood including Cell's.
As a volunteer dry-land Navy sailor the two years after World War II, Cell and his friends from boot camp each got a shot of bourbon at hospital donation centers in addition to $25.
He went as often as allowed — once every 12 weeks in the 40s.
Bonfils had put in place a system of tracking blood donations by the time Thelma, his wife of 62 years on Tuesday, had birthed their three boys and Cell began donating more frequently in 1969. That was the year his donations first counted toward the Bonfils record.
Since 1990, Cell said he has donated a pint of blood at least once every two weeks. Bonfils allows blood platelet donations of one pint as frequently as once a week, but caps each donor at 24 pints a year. Cell rations them.
“I think I've known Bill longer than I've known my own husband,” said Amy De-Moss, site supervisor at Bonfils in Westminster.
DeMoss said the amount and frequency that Cell donates could be achieved by any typical adult, but only about 4 percent of Americans give blood.
On average, DeMoss said donations drop about 20 percent during the holiday season.
After the last drop of Cell's 680th pint dripped into a packet labeled “A+” at about 11 a.m., he was greeted in the staff break room with celebratory ribs and cake. Cell tried not to spill on his lavender Bonfils shirt.
He'll be back in two weeks.
Alison Noon: firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/alisonnoon.