By Jason A. Smith
Members of two local, law-enforcement agencies rolled up their sleeves this week for a chance to help save the lives of others.
The American Red Cross held blood drives Friday at the Henry County Sheriff's Office and the Henry County Police Department. The event was designed as a competition between the two agencies, to see who was able to generate more donations.
The police department edged out the sheriff's office, generating 45 pints of blood for the Red Cross. Thirty pints were collected at the sheriff's office.
Sheriff's Chief Deputy David McCart was one of the organizers of the blood drive. He says representatives from the Red Cross approached both departments last month in an effort to increase the state's blood supply.
"Blood donations are down in the summer, because of all the kids in school that are out," says McCart. "That's where [the Red Cross gets] a lot of their donations. So, we were more than glad to jump in, and do what we could to help them."
Henry County Police Deputy Chief Keith Nichols was the first man in line for donations at his agency. He says the blood drive renews a "friendly rivalry" between the police department and the sheriff's office, and enables both groups to serve the public in a different way.
"We attend to a lot of automobile accidents where there is blood loss, as well as shootings and stabbings," says Nichols. "In our line of work, we see a lot of victims. Even members of your own family can become victims. People who give blood are the unsung heroes who help save lives without ever knowing it."
Prior to the event, the Sheriff's Office reportedly signed up 21 people to give blood in a training room at the agency. The police department pre-registered approximately 60 donors.
Iman Aaron, a mobile unit technician with the Red Cross, who collected blood donations at the event, says local law-enforcement personnel should be commended for their collective desire to support the blood drive. "Officers are looked at as protectors of the community, and some are even looked up to as role models," says Aaron. "When an officer gives blood, he's saying that he actually cares about his community."
Aaron says the blood donations come at a time when many medical facilities are struggling to meet the demands of their patients. "We do collect a lot of blood, but we don't even collect enough for the hospitals in Georgia," adds Aaron. "We have to [get] blood from other regions. So, when law enforcement steps up to help us out, it's always greatly appreciated. Whenever a police officer shows up, it shows that he has a humanitarian side ... and he actually lives his mission."
Sheriff's Sgt. Mark Johnson, who donated blood and plasma while taking a break from his duties in the training division at the sheriff's office, says he had several reasons for giving blood.
"I wanted to help beat the police department," he says. "Plus, I wanted to help save a life. I've had several family members who have used blood [from donations]. If they couldn't have gotten it, they would have been bad off. So, it's a good thing to help people out whenever you can."
Carol Wood, training officer at the police department, has been a blood donor since 1988. Wood says she is "proud of our county" for arranging the blood drive, and she was eager to participate.
"I know there's always a need for it, whether you have a natural disaster or a car accident, or anything else," says Wood. "If they can use my blood to save someone's life, it's not hurting me at all to give it. It hurts for a minute, but, if it saves a life, it's worth it."