Alyssa Sutton

Brent Lewis, 68, of La Grande, has been donating blood since he was a junior in high school, and Tuesday was no different for the local, as he showed up at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in La Grande for the Red Cross blood drive.

For every drawing, Lewis has donated the normal one pint, and he has made it to almost every drive –– held four times a year –– for the last 51 years, donating an equivalent of roughly 25 gallons of blood.

“I’ve missed a few drawings through the years, but I try to be a regular donor,” Lewis said. “One time I couldn’t do it here (in La Grande) but I arranged for a drawing in Baker City. Another time I did it in Spokane.”

Lewis said when he was in high school, his father had an operation on his lung that was considered high-risk.

“He needed a lot of blood, and at that time you could donate on behalf of the person,” Lewis said, explaining the first time he donated blood was for his father.

Lewis has been donating ever since, with no plan to stop.

“As long as God blesses me with health, I feel I owe it to the community as a civil servant,” he said.

Lewis said he wishes more people donated blood, and highly recommends people do.

On Monday the American Red Cross sent out a press release stating that not enough people are donating blood. A recent Red Cross survey found that the blood shortage is due in part to widespread misconceptions about the process of blood donation.

“It’s very sanitary,” Lewis said. “I haven’t had any reactions. It takes about an hour, and it is quite a painless process. There really should be no fear about it being unsanitary or (fear of) infections.”

Currently, according to the press release, the Red Cross is joining an international movement as it launches the #MissingTypes campaign to combat this trend, calling for new blood donors and those who haven’t given in a while to help fill the gaps and ensure lifesaving blood remains available for patients. During the campaign, the letters A, B and O –– the main blood groups –– will disappear from brand logos, social media pages, signs and websites to draw attention to the critical role of every blood donor.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer