Shawn Clawson didn’t wince at all as a needle slid into his arm.
His smile stayed bright as blood started flowing out and into a collection bag. After all, it was for a good cause.
A frequent donor, he gave July 18 in tribute to Amherst police officer Eugene Ptacek, who was shot during a May 31 standoff in Sheffield Lake.
“I respect what police do more than what firefighters do. They have a more dangerous job,” said Clawson, who spent 19 years as an Oberlin firefighter.
In the space of a couple of hours, more than 40 donors climbed aboard The Blood Vessel, a LifeShare Community Blood Services bus outfitted with four donation bays where donors rested with feet up while giving — quite literally — from the heart.
Phlebotomists moved about inside, placing needles, making visitors comfortable, and directing them afterward to a cantine for complementary cookies.
While we watched, four muscled Lorain SWAT team members gave blood, all wearing black in solidarity with Ptacek. They left with blue and black bandages around their left elbows.
The drive took placed outside Steele High School, where Amherst police stood by, selling T-shirts to support Ptacek’s recovery. Sgt. Mike Murphy said they had 500 T-shirts printed in green and gold and will order more if there’s demand.
Amherst officers were behind the drive — at first, they had wanted to collect blood that would go directly to Ptacek. But donations don’t work that way; all the units collected Thursday will help replenish the county’s blood reserve, which had been used to provide emergency blood to the wounded Amherst patrolman after the shooting.
LifeShare supplies blood to local Mercy and University Hospitals facilities and some outside the county as well.
Michael Salisbury, director of regional donor recruitment, said reserves are incredibly low for O-negative, the “universal” blood type that can be transfused to nearly any patient.
The blood supply always drops in the summer and fell drastically following Independence Day. “It’s really scary around the Fourth of July, the week of Thanksgiving, and Christmas until January when schools start holding blood drives again,” he said.
In the meantime, Ptacek is slowly recovering from the single bullet that pierced his torso during the standoff. The county SWAT team veteran was shot rushing the door of suspect Martin Robinson, wanted on felony warrants out of Cuyahoga County.
Robinson was also shot and lived.
Amherst Lt. Dan Makruski said police have been visiting Ptacek as often as they can since the incident. As of the most recent press update, he was still listed in serious condition.
“He’s got a long way to go. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. But he’s a tough guy,” Makruski said.
He is confident the patrolman is making progress but unsure whether he will be able to return to duty.
Makruski was waiting for his shift to end so he could give blood. It would be his first time donating and the perfect time and reason to start, he said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.