Off the Clock: Bowman Joins Elite Group of Blood Donors

Posted: May 17, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Lori Jennings

On Nov. 22, 2004, Gary Bowman, customer service leader in Mason’s Mail Services Center, received a special blue jacket from Inova Blood Donor Services for completing his 150th platelet donation. Today, Bowman continues this valuable service, donating a triple batch—thanks to his size and good health—every two weeks at the Woodburn Donor Center in Annandale. With every single donation helping three people, Bowman directly affects the lives of almost 20 people every month.

Bowman didn’t always see the value in helping others this way, but it would be the act of donating that would end up helping him as well. In 1996, he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for clinical depression. He spent eight months in the facility and met a friend who introduced him to the world of blood donation through a letter-stuffing campaign.

Gary Bowman
Gary Bowman proudly wears the jacket presented to him after his 150th platelet donation.
Photo by Evan Cantwell

When Bowman later attended a blood donation drive, he found himself drawn to helping adults and children understand how blood donation works. The director of the blood drive was impressed with Bowman and offered him a job as a donor recruiter.

There was, however, one small problem. Bowman had never actually donated himself, and he didn’t feel right asking others to do what he hadn’t done. His first donation launched a passion. Since then, Bowman has been donating his platelets, which are concentrations of cells that help the body stop bleeding. Anyone can donate platelets, but Bowman donates his because they are in demand. Bowman’s platelets are CMV negative, which means his blood is free of a common, yet strong virus and can be given to children or those with compromised immune systems. Platelet donation takes approximately one and a half hours and provides a more concentrated donation than is possible with regular blood.

Bowman encourages others to donate: “Donating blood or platelets is the greatest gift you can give someone. I wanted to take my own life at one point, and now I’m saving the lives of others.”

Bowman has been with Mason for nine years, having started part-time in the Mail Services Center.

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