2YH: APD officer shares story of survival thanks to blood donations

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) November 12, 2016 is a night Anchorage Police Officer Arn Salao will never forget.

Donated blood at the Blood Bank of Alaska waiting to be distributed.

"It happened really fast and there were lots of things going on in my mind," he said.

Dash cam footage from Officer Salao's patrol car that night showed the moments before he pulled over a man, who police later identified as serial killer James Dale Ritchie, opened fire.

"He immediately turns around and we get into this shooting immediately. I was shot 6 times and had to spend 10 days in the hospital," said Salao.

Officer Salao underwent life saving surgery and said several blood transfusions saved his life.

"I'm standing here today because folks were generous in their donation and I was able to get those transfusions to help me live and to survive and that's why I'm here," said Salao.

He shares his story of survival so others can see first hand how donating can make a difference.

"We're all very busy, we all have lives, we all have responsibilities and at times it can be very difficult to come down and donate blood, but it doesn't take that long and it's very important, it's very valuable and it does save lives," said Salao.

The entire process to donate blood from start to finish takes about an hour and delivers a pint of blood. Blood Bank of Alaska CEO, Bob Scanlon said each unit of blood goes through 14 separate tests to ensure its safety, purity and potency.

The blood is stored in lockers until it's ready to be pushed out to hospitals across the state. All blood types are needed and like milk, blood and platelets have a shelf life too.

"It has different temperatures it has to be stored at, it has different timelines that it's good for, so for instance platelets, they're only good for 5 days," said Scanlon.

Giving blood is a year round need and no donation goes to waste. The Blood Bank of Alaska serves virtually every hospital, every Native organization and all of the military in the state.

"If it gets to maybe a week out, before out dating, we will take that gift of life back from those hospitals and we will look for some place to use it somewhere in the country," said Scanlon.

In some way, donating blood is the chance to play the hero.

"It's the closest opportunity that any of us will have to directly save the life of another," said Scanlon.

It's a chance to give a gift.

"It was obviously something that saved my life," added Salao.

O negative is the universal blood type. It's what hospitals typically use in trauma situations, but all blood types are needed. Scanlon said the best way to donate is to make an appointment by calling (907) 222-5630. Walk-ins are also welcome and you can also donate at any one of the mobile collection sites across the state.

"Even if you only want to donate once, we will gratefully accept that donation and you have done a lot for the community you have potentially saved three lives," said Scanlon.

As for Officer Salao, he's been cleared for full duty and continues to recover both physically and mentally.

"I wanted the work to be challenging and I wanted to make sure that whatever I did would have a lasting impact on other's lives including myself. You deal with some very difficult situations, but at the same time you do get to see some of the great things that are out there," he said.

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