During this National Blood Donor Month, I’d like to salute American Red Cross blood donor John Dowell, even though he out-ranks me.
John, who makes his home in Lakewood, finished his service in the U.S. Air Force as a senior airman/sergeant. When he returned to civilian life, he tried to donate blood but couldn’t because he had been at RAF Upper Heyford near Oxford, England, from March 1981 to March 1983.
For decades, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned blood donations from folks who had spent time in certain European countries during the 1980s and ‘90s, to prevent transmission of a deadly brain infection commonly known as “mad cow disease.”
The Red Cross, of course, respected that ban, which meant turning away potentially hundreds of thousands of donors, including many in the military community who had served overseas.
Last year, the FDA lifted the final section of its “mad cow” ban after finding there had been no reported cases of the brain disease associated with time spent in the United Kingdom, France and Ireland.
“As soon as I heard about it (lifting of the ban), I was right down there to donate the next day,” John said.
John comes from a family of dedicated blood donors – mom, dad and sister – so he started donating when he was in high school. “I was just a couple of pints short of a gallon when I went into the air force,” he said.
“I believe in it. It’s important to have that spare blood on the shelf,” he said. “I don’t try to recruit people – if you want to donate, fine. If not, I’ve got your back,” he added with a chuckle.
But John is active in a couple of Facebook groups populated by the military community. When he posted about the lifting of the “mad cow” donor ban, “I got a big response, an overwhelming response. ‘Hey, that’s great to know. Thanks for putting out the word’,” his Facebook friends replied.
So, I want to salute Sgt. John Dowell for his service, in uniform and as a civilian, doing his bit to be sure there’s “blood on the shelf” for those who need a lifesaving transfusion.
If you, or someone you know – military or civilian – has been deferred from giving blood because of the “mad cow” (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease) criteria, you can contact the Red Cross Donor and Client Support Center at 1-866-236-3276 for more information.
During National Blood Donor Month, please consider joining the ranks of folks, young and old, who serve their country in a profound way. I salute you.
To find a blood drive near you, go to www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.