"They said if I hadn't done that, that most likely I would have been dead by 45," said Becker.
"It's possible that he's right," said Gordeuk. "Maybe his donating blood to go to football did it."
Gordeuk said doctors discovered the genetic mutation behind hemochromatosis in 1996. Although now, people can be diagnosed using a genetic test, in 1975, people were only diagnosed through family history and high iron levels in the blood. Blood banks often did not test just for iron levels.
In America, about five per every 1,000 people inherit two copies of the mutated genes, Gordeuk said. But not everyone with both copies will go on to develop the toxic effects of hemochromatosis.
Gordeuk said Becker could have been one of the unfortunate people with the genetic disposition who do go on to develop toxic levels of iron "if he (Becker) was donating blood regularly, and then despite that, they made the diagnosis of hemochromatosis because he had high levels of iron in his body."
Becker has to give more blood than he used to in order to pay for Packers games. Worse, Becker says he now has to pay to get his blood taken as part of his treatment.
But those years of donating blood paid him back in more ways than one, when the Packers inducted him into the Fans Hall of Fame.
"Right off the bat, I got $500 in merchandise. We got four club seats, and that's about $1,000 right there," said Becker. He also won two tickets to an away game, including airfare and accommodations.
"With 11 children, I'm going to have a tough time deciding who's going to the game," he said.