Mark Koss started donating blood to help save lives.
Turns out, he might end up saving his own.
Koss, 59, donated blood for the first time in 1982 in response to a disaster at Star Spencer Elementary School. A water heater in the cafeteria exploded. Six students died, and more than 30 were injured in the blast.
“It was such an awful event, and there was a big push for giving blood,” he said. “Word spread like wildfire and blood donation places started filling up. I really loved the feeling that we were helping these kids.”
Flash forward 30 years and Koss — still passionate about donating every few weeks — had given more than 13 gallons in all.
But in June 2012, when Koss went to donate, his iron levels were low. Attributing it to his Lenten fast from meat, fish and poultry, Koss said he decided to take iron supplements and try again in a few weeks.
Two weeks later, his iron levels were even lower.
“I'm getting alarmed,” he said. “Something's wrong and we don't know what it is, but at least we knew something was wrong. So we decided I would need to be put through a battery of different tests in the coming weeks.”
A few days later, Koss was admitted to the emergency room at his mother's insistence.
He told the doctor about his low iron level count, his symptoms of weakness, headaches, dizziness and irritability.
“The emergency room doctor also told me I was in total renal failure,” he said.
“They gave me four blood transfusions because I had no red blood cells being made, my white blood cells were shut down and the platelets were shut down.”
“Doctor looked at me and said, ‘You've got cancer.'”
Koss was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.
Fighting for his life, Koss now goes to the Oklahoma Blood Institute to have his stem cells harvested for an upcoming procedure.