Byline: Sandy Strickland, Times-Union staff writer
For a man not overly fond of needles, Dean Willis has rolled up his sleeve and voluntarily given blood at a level rarely seen in Jacksonville.
This week, Willis reached the Florida Georgia Blood Alliance's coveted 60-gallon mark, joining an elite handful of residents.
Each time he holds out his arm, the Arlington resident said, he saves as many as three lives. Over 30 years, that equates to a potential 1,440 lives, according to the blood alliance.
Willis, chief microbiologist for the state Department of Health, has a standing appointment to donate platelets at 7 a.m. every other Wednesday at the Central Donor Center, 536 W. 10th St.
"It takes a little bit of time out of my busy schedule," he said of the procedure, which takes up to two hours. "But I actually feel better after I donate."
Willis, who has never needed a transfusion, said he realized the importance of donating the life-giving fluid in 1975 when his father-in-law, then 44, had to have bypass surgery and needed a transfusion.
"I didn't especially like needles," Willis said. "But after I found out I wouldn't die if they stuck a needle in me, I got used to it."
For the first decade or so, he gave whole blood -- a pint can be donated about six times a year, and doesn't take as long as donating platelets. Then he got a call from the blood bank asking if he would donate blood platelets because he was a close match for a child receiving an organ transplant. …