‘Please donate blood’: Grizzly bear attack survivor asks British Columbians to give

Four years after he was attacked by a grizzly bear, Colin Dowler is hoping people will donate blood, which is one of the things that saved his life after the attack.

The Quadra Island man who took on a grizzly bear with a pocket knife four years ago is recounting his story of survival, asking British Columbians to give what saved his life.

“People that can donate, not everyone is able to. Those who can it makes the world of difference, so please donate blood,” said Colin Dowler.

In 2019, Dowler’s solo backcountry bike trip in the remote coastal rainforest of Ramsay Arm 180 km north of Powell River, went wildly off track when a 150 kilogram (330 pounds) grizzly bear attacked him.

“I was thinking I wasn’t going to make it,” Dowler said from his Vancouver hospital bed in 2019.

The grizzly charged him, attacking his stomach, arm, legs, and foot. While feeling the grating noises of the grizzly’s teeth on his bones, Dowler realized he had on him, a pocket knife.

Dowler stabbed the grizzly in the neck, giving him enough time to get back on his bike, and somehow ride seven kilometres toward the nearest logging camp.

“They hooked up a bag of blood and had a logger working as an IV pole holding a blood bag,” said Dowler, who said the loggers did two blood transfusions before he even got into the evac helicopter.

Dowler’s femoral artery had been completely severed and was bleeding out. Paramedics estimate that Dowler had lost three of his five litres of blood in his body.

He and the emergency room doctors credit the quick actions of the loggers and the on-site blood, as what saved his life.

“If it was any more than an hour or two more he could have permanent damage to his leg if not lose his leg,” said Naisan Garraway, the head of trauma at Vancouver General Hospital in 2019.

A program called “blood-on-board” had just started months before. Four years after his attack, Dowler is hosting a blood drive in Nanaimo calling on others to give during summer months when donations are slowest.

“We have thousands of open appointments across the country, and your appointment will help save a life like Colin’s,” said Patricia Willms, community development manager with Canadian Blood Services. “We need Canadians to step up so we have all the blood we need.”

For the man who attributes his survival to a mix of sheer stubbornness, a small pocket knife, and bags of blood in a remote area, he has only one message to the grizzly who tried to take him down.

“It’s not worth such a small meal,” said Dowler, laughing.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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