Uniforms unite to donate

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Const. Doug Cowell donates at the Canadian Blood Services clinic April 8 at the Spirit and Life Centre in Chatham. It was Cowell’s 34th time giving blood.
Const. Doug Cowell donates at the Canadian Blood Services clinic April 8 at the Spirit and Life Centre in Chatham. It was Cowell’s 34th time giving blood.

Wednesday brought a different police line up of sorts to Chatham, as officers lined up to donate blood.

In the Uniforms Unite to Save Lives Campaign, off-duty police officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel showed up in uniform and rolled up their sleeves to donate at the Chatham blood donor clinic.

Const. Doug Cowell was one of them.

“We see it at work every day,” he said off the need for blood. “Donating doesn’t cost you anything except for time.”

Maureen MacFarlane, territory manager for Canadian Blood Services, said a typical donation will take about an hour from the time a person registers to the time he or she gets juice and cookies at the end. It can take a little longer when a clinic is busier, however.

Cowell said there will always be a need.

“It’s just such a valuable give to give. There’s always a shortage,” Cowell said. “You try to lead by example and give back.”

For Cowell, and his wife, Renee, also a police officer, giving blood is indeed a form of payback. Their late daughter Bailey was born with a heart defect and required a transplant. She received that transplant when she was only nine days old. Bailey lived for just five weeks and needed 140 units of blood during her short life.

“Our goal each year is to replace what she used in a month,” Cowell said. “We received support from complete strangers. I want to pay that back.”

MacFarlane said the need for donations of units of blood is constant.

“Blood has a shelf life,” she explained.

Cancer patients are the No. 1 users of blood, and individually can go through up to five units a week, MacFarlane said. For someone in a car accident, the need could reach the 50-unit mark.

Despite the need, only a fraction of the population opts to donate.

“Less than 4% of the population donates blood,” MacFarlane said. “Anyone aged 17 and older can come out and donate.”

A person can donate blood once every 56 days, she added.

MacFarlane offers encouragement to anyone who is afraid of a needle.

“Think about the person who is going to need that blood. They are likely getting poked much more than you will,” she said.

Blood donor clinics are taking place around the municipality over the course of the month.

To book an appointment at one of these clinics, people can download the GiveBlood app, visit blood.ca or call 1-888-2-DONATE (1-888-236-6283).

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