NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Nathan Baker, better known as the “Blood Guy” to most, is a hero who has potentially helped save the lives of more than 1,600 people.
“He knows everything about blood,” Red Cross Tennessee Regional CEO Joel Sullivan said. “In, fact, Nathan’s been spreading the word about the importance of blood donation for decades through the American Red Cross.”
Baker first started giving blood in 1972 while in college at Trevecca Nazarene University. Baker admitted he first started giving blood to get out of class.
“That was the number one reason, and being a male freshman – to impress women,” he said. “Well, it didn’t help by the way.”
Baker said he loved how he could help people with each donation. The now 66-year-old has been giving blood and platelets for the last 47 years. He made 562 donations so far.
Since one blood donation can help save up to three lives, Baker has potentially helped more than 1,686 people since he began donating all those years ago.
Baker isn’t just known as the “Blood Guy” because of his longtime donations, but because he also lives and shares the mission of the American Red Cross. He became an employee of the nonprofit in 1977.
“I started my career as a telemarketer,” he recalled. “I was the first visually impaired employee at the Red Cross.”
As the first full-time telemarketer, Baker’s focus was on recruiting people to give blood.
“Many times, I’d have their time, and we’d go down and meet them, and even now, I go down and talk to the Apheresis donors. They’re sitting there donating platelets and thank them,” he said.
Baker was later promoted, filling another need.
“Red Cross’ mentality is that every student is important. We want to get people past their fear of giving blood, so that’s why in 1992 I designed ‘What is blood’ for schools,” he explained. “I have done more than 8,000 classroom presentations, and probably spoke to more than 200,000 students in Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois.”
“Nathan is truly a hero,” Sullivan said. “He believes in the mission of the Red Cross. He believes in the mission of saving lives through the donation of blood, and I think there are countless pints of blood, in fact, probably thousands of gallons of blood that are donated every year just because Nathan’s been out there in the community sharing the story.”
Baker retired in 2015, but he has continued to volunteer with the Red Cross as a biomedical volunteer coordinator.
“He keeps up with our Hall of Fame for those that have given 10 gallons of blood or more,” explained Sullivan. “So we’re very impressed. In fact, his volunteerism is so impressive that just this year, in June of 2019, he was selected to get the American Red Cross Award of Excellence and was given that award in our recent meeting.”
Brett Crystal, Red Cross’ donor recruitment rep, said Baker is an inspiration to him and others.
“I’ve personally set a lifelong goal to one day break a world record for most blood donations, so he’s a local inspiration to me of someone to look up to and to want to be like,” Crystal said.
“I think heroes have to do the things heroes do to make life better for the people that surround them. Police officers, firemen and Red Cross volunteers that respond to a house fire at two in the morning. I consider those people heroes, too. So, maybe I’d like to think I’m in good categories, or good company, with those other people that are considered, or we consider heroes.”
Baker was honored during a ceremony at Hyundai of Cool Springs on Wednesday. He received a plaque for his lifesaving efforts. The ceremony was part of News 2’s monthly recognition called Hyundai of Cool Springs Heroes.
Once a month News 2, along with Hyundai of Cool Springs, will highlight a public servant who goes above and beyond the call of duty.