Carrie’s Column: Save a life by donating blood

CARRIE MILER

CARRIE MILLER

New York Blood Center, which supplies all three East End hospitals, said stocks have become “dangerously low” following the Winter Storm Juno.

In a press release, the center issued an urgent call for donors, asking the public to “roll up their sleeves and help rebuild the community’s blood supply.”

The shortage has created the largest loss of blood donations since Hurricane Sandy, according to center officials.

“Long Island is the largest segment in terms of donations and Long Island got hit the hardest during the snowstorm,” said Harvey Schaffler, executive director of donor marketing. “When you’ve got your main engine down you are hurting. It has really been a struggle.”

Mr. Schaffler said NYBC is down roughly 3,000 units due to canceled blood drives and from having to stock hospitals with extra blood prior to the storm.

“Our supplies of O-negative — the universal blood type — are at less than a day’s worth,” he said. “But we are down across the board.”

Blood donations from East End residents account for about 10 percent of Long Island donations. Since NYBC was forced to close its Riverhead donor center last April, it relies on blood drives and other centers to maintain supplies, Mr. Schaffler said.

“We had the Riverhead location open for 10 years, but it just did not materialize for us,” he said. “We’ve watched the growth on Route 58 and we were right on that strip, but we could just never attract enough traffic to make it financially feasible.

“What else can you do in 60 minutes that can save a life?” Mr. Schaffler continued. “You don’t have to be a uniformed officer to save a life; you can roll up your sleeves and make a difference.”

Last Thursday, North Shore Christian Church in Riverhead held a blood drive and secured 38 pints of blood, said executive minister Matthew Zvolensky.

“The minimum they are hoping for during a blood drive is 25 pints, and although we were hoping for 40, the blood center was happy,” Mr. Zvolensky said. “The turnout was pretty good.”

If you’re interested in donating, don’t wait. New York State Department of Health regulations forbid NYBC to collect blood donations east of the Shinnecock Canal — which on the North Fork is the Jamesport area — from June 1 through Oct. 31 due to concerns with the tick-borne disease Babesiosis.

“It is prevalent on the East End and can be transmitted via blood transfusion,” Mr. Schaffler said. “And while testing is wonderful, it is not perfect. They do it to help minimize that risk.”

To schedule a donation or find a blood drive near you, visit nybc.org or download the organization’s smartphone app. On the North Fork, drives will take place Wednesday, February. 18, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. inside the Peconic Building at Suffolk Community College in Riverhead.

Got a health question or column idea? Email Carrie Miller at [email protected].

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