The need goes on #15: Olympic athlete donates blood for the first time

Cancelled season provides rare opportunity for Evan Dunfee to give blood.

April 24, 2020

Athlete Evan Dunfee donated blood for the first time on April 23.


“In my line of work, I have to be somewhat selfish about my blood,” says Olympic athlete Evan Dunfee. The COVID-19 pandemic provided a rare opportunity for the endurance athlete to donate blood for the first time.

“Endurance athletes work to increase blood volume so we can cover long distances. With everything going on, though, the season’s been cancelled and I have no races in the near future. For once, I had the chance to do this,” he says.

Dunfee is a racewalker, which he describes to the uninitiated as “running with rules.” It involves all the physical endurance of a long-distance runner, but one foot must always be on the ground, and racers must maintain a straight leg. His main event is the 50 km distance, in which he placed fourth and set the Canadian record at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Dunfee is very active in his community, talking at schools and community events and working to raise funds for KidSport, a national program that helps improve access to sports for disadvantaged children. With the pandemic, however, those opportunities dwindled.

“I felt like I needed something I could do to feel valuable and useful in the community,” he says.

His first time donating was “super easy,” he says. A friend of his booked the appointment right before him, so they got to see each other while physical distancing. “The experience was absolutely flawless,” he says.

One thing he noticed the morning after donating was that he had a bit of a rougher training session — while the body replaces the plasma portion of a donation within hours, and platelets within days, red blood cells can take months to replenish.

“For me, in my line of work, that blood makes the difference of about 20 heart beats a minute. For someone else, it can save a life. It was amazing to see and feel how important that gift is,” says Dunfee.

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