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Islanders step up for blood drive: Enough donations to help 126 people in need

Islanders donated 42 pints of blood at the July 22 blood drive at EMS Headquarters coordinated by Kristen Reutter, account manager of donor recruitment for the New York Blood Center, and Islander Judy Meringer.

“It has been a challenging year,” Ms. Reutter said. She’s worked with many communities to coordinate socially distanced blood drives at various pop-up venues in the past year. But hospitals’ need for blood remains high with not enough donations to meet that need.

Shelter Islanders have been very supportive, Ms. Reutter said. Prior to this first on-Island blood donor event since the COVID-19 pandemic began, she credited Ms. Meringer with support to get the word out about the event and the requirements for donors during the ongoing pandemic.

A number of Islanders have come to the Greenport Roller Rink to give blood during previous months since the pandemic began, again, thanks to Ms. Meringer’s efforts to promote those drives, Ms. Reutter said.

The New York Blood Center has seen a decline in donors with some high school and college students unable to donate and some who have donated at hospital drives in the past have been unable to do so this year because of the pandemic, Ms. Reutter said. There is a nationwide shortage of blood, she said.

“We continue to have obstacles,” she said. But at least now, the organization is able to run drives at more locations. Each donation can help up to three recipients; the 42 pints Islanders gave can help up to 126 people.

Of the 46 who came to donate blood, nine were deferred for different reasons, so 37 were able to donate.

Of those, 32 donated whole blood, while five used the double red cell machine that is similar to what is used to extract platelets. But in this case they were able to give two pints of blood because only red cells are taken while platelets and fluids are returned to the donor.

Such donations can go to hospitals more quickly to help with specific transfusion needs, especially those requiring emergency transfusions.

To socially distance donors, chairs were spread out and not as many people at a time were able to sit in the canteen for refreshments after donating.

Staff members wore masks and used sanitized wipes and hand sanitizers after each donor.

To add to precautions, new questions are on staff tablets to better screen donors about health histories related to COVID, Ms. Reutter said.

“We have new criteria in regards to the vaccine,” she said. Since this pandemic continues to evolve and society is still making changes, the staff carefully monitors guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Federal Drug Administration.

“We are still not out of the woods,” Ms. Reutter said. Summers mean many are traveling or out and about and not donating, she said. Summers and holiday seasons typically result in challenges to keep up with the need for blood, she said.

“We are crossing our fingers COVID does not cause another shut down or cause hesitation to confirm future blood drives because it could cause a serious problem for our hospitals nationwide,” she said.