100th Unit Milestone

Grandfather inspires Culver teacher 's faithful blood donations

by: Photo By Susan Matheny - Red Cross medical assistant Mark Vieu prepares to collect the 100th unit of donated blood from Culver teacher Cindy Dix, Sept. 27. Dix has gotten to know Vieu and several other Red Cross workers during her many visits to donation sites over the years.

   An enthusiastic blood drive supporter, Cindy Dix, donated her 100th unit of blood last Thursday -- enough to have saved 300 lives.
   "One unit of blood can help three different people," she noted.
   Dix, who is 55, said she started going to blood drives in her early 30s, inspired by her grandfather Howard Jacobs.
   "My favorite picture of my grandpa is of him holding a gallon jug of blood on his shoulder," she said, explaining it was taken when he was working at the Swan Island Shipyards in Portland and awards were handed out to those who had accumulated gallon donations.
   The photo had always intrigued her, and she thought she should start donating, too.
   "My first time was a good experience, so I thought I'd try to make it to a gallon like my grandpa," Dix said, noting one gallon is eight units.
   Once Dix decided to donate blood every 56 days (the most allowed), there was no stopping her. Soon, she was at the three-gallon mark, and last year hit 12 gallons (96 units), with the next milestone being 100 units.
   Not that there weren't bumps in the road of her routine.
   Red Cross medical assistant Mark Vieu recalled, "One time she came to the Culver drive and was deferred (due to low-iron count). So, she want to the Redmond drive the next day and failed again, then came all the way to Prineville the next day and donated!"
   Dix is in her 34th year of teaching first grade at Culver Elementary, so she also had to wait until school was out to drive around seeking collection sites.
   Vieu has gotten to know Dix pretty well over the years. "He makes giving blood fun," she said, laughing at the frog-shaped rubber ball he gave her to squeeze as he prepared to collect her 100th donation.
   "I have good veins and my blood flows pretty quickly, which makes it easy to donate," Dix observed. In fact, her collection took only four minutes.
   Things have changed over the years. Vieu said the staff consisted of him and six others when Red Cross started the area drives. "Now we have a staff of 27 and do three blood drives a day in Central Oregon," he said.
   Dix said the changes in technology have been amazing. She remembers they used to prick people's ears for a blood sample to test for iron. The drop of blood was put in a solution and if it settled to the bottom in three seconds, it was OK. "Now, they put it in a machine that tells you the exact amount of iron," she said.
   At first, the only donation site was in Madras. Then Barb Frazier organized Culver collections, which branched out to the high school.
   "We have a great community drive at Culver High School in December, which the students organize. There are a lot of first-time student donors and it's a real good thing where the community can see high school kids in a positive way," Dix said.
   In her own classroom, she's shared her grandpa's photo with her first-graders. "It puts a seed in their brain to maybe donate, too, when they get older," she said.
   As Dix made her 100th donation, she got hugs from Culver volunteers working at the site, then was surprised with a sheet cake in her honor.
   That atmosphere is part of what makes donating enjoyable. "Usually, when you come in, there's a ton of people you know saying hi. It's just a good community feel," Dix said, encouraging others to give it a try.