Retired Army Surgeon Finds a Way to Keep Saving Lives – And You Can, Too

In 1989, while stationed at Fort Bragg here in North Carolina, Dr. Donohue parachuted into Panama as a surgeon in the medical team of the 82nd Airborne Division, and almost immediately began treating casualties. He remembers working in a Forward Surgical Team tent next to an airbase runway, treating wounded at that location; all hospital buildings in nearby Panama City were in active combat zones. The photo above shows the team operating on a young Army Ranger who had been caught in an ambush, sustaining several wounds. The young man required a blood transfusion. And fortunately, Hugh and his team of medics had enough blood on hand to save the man’s life. But that wasn’t always the case.

During Operation Desert Storm, then-Colonel Hugh Donohue commanded Fort Bragg’s 28th Combat Support Hospital, leading it over 100 miles into Iraq. One day, a soldier arrived needing immediate surgery. The medics knew that he couldn’t wait for the team to secure more blood. And then something happened that Hugh will never forget. On the spot, one of the nurses, whose blood type matched the patient’s, donated a unit of blood to save his life.

“I made a vow that I would help to maintain blood reserves by making blood donations, after seeing how critical its need was,” Hugh said, thinking back about his time in the military. And he has. Hugh has been donating blood for half a century now. He has an easy system in place that he follows to maximize his donations: “Every time I donate, the blood drive organization gives you a paper. It lists how soon you can donate next time, which is about eight weeks later. I put a reminder in my calendar for eight weeks so I can donate again.”

Hugh is no longer clinically active, but, he said, “This is the one thing I can do to still help.”

Leave a Reply