TOWNHOLD FREEHOLD – Alicia Scardigno almost died during childbirth in 2006. But because she received blood transfusions, she survived.
“If someone didn’t donate, I wouldn’t be here today,” Scardigno said.
Due to his experience, Scardigno wanted to donate blood. But she was nervous about returning to donate blood during the COVID-19 pandemic. After the restrictions were lifted and after receiving numerous urgent emails from New Jersey blood services announcing their low supply, Scardigno decided to donate blood again, doing so on Thursday at the Freehold Raceway Mall.
In a normal year, blood banks would expect a summer crisis and stock up on blood donations in the spring. But the past year has been anything but normal.
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On Wednesday, the New Jersey Blood Services division of the New York Blood Center announced a blood emergency. They had a three day supply.
“We need more people to donate so that we can deliver what the hospitals are asking for,” said Lynne Ross, account manager for New Jersey Blood Services.
RWJBarnabas Health, which operates Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus in Lakewood, and Community Medical Center in Toms River, relies heavily on blood donations from the New York Blood Center and the American Red Cross.
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As New Jersey began to reopen after the pandemic, RWJBarnabas Health found itself undertaking more postponed procedures and admitting more patients following vehicle crashes. But his blood donations did not follow.
“We are now in the midst of a serious and chronic blood emergency,” said Sally Wells, Blood Services Business Development Liaison at RWJBarnabas Health. “This is unheard of.”
When the blood supply drops, Wells said it starts to impact routine surgeries that require blood on hand in case something goes wrong. Cancer patients, who are one of the first transfusion recipients, will also be affected, as they will have to wait several hours for blood to arrive.
“There is a spiraling effect,” Wells said, “It happens throughout the hospital environment when the blood supply is not robust.”
According to Wells, the closure of schools and businesses hampered their efforts to organize blood drives and they had to turn to community organizations. Instead of coming to donors, donors had to be drawn to their sites.
Organizations like the American Red Cross have started reaching out to places like the YMCA, said Diane Concannon, spokesperson for the American Red Cross.
But because blood drives aren’t held in schools, New Jersey’s blood services saw half the number of donors aged 17 to 24 donate blood compared to the year before the pandemic.
Since young donors are often first-time donors, Ross sees this as a potential long-term problem.
“A lot of people aren’t introduced to blood donation, which they first did when they were in high school,” Ross said. “The situation is not just for now, but it is potentially a long term problem.”
New Jersey Blood Services saw many donors return earlier this spring “because people knew there was a need,” Ross said, about 100,000 donors statewide have not returned since. start of the pandemic. Ross said the number of blood donations entering the summer months is expected to decline.
Wells of RWJBarnabas Health attributes the drop in summer donations to vacations.
“If it weren’t for COVID, we would have collected blood in April, May and early June before everyone went on summer vacation,” Wells said, “It would help slow inventory in … The first half of July and the beginning of August. This is not the case this year. We are therefore entering this holiday of July 4 without any reservations.
Wells said RWJBarnabas Health has seen an increase in no-shows with blood donation appointments as COVID restrictions relax.
She said RWJBarnabas Health sent emails and posted on social media.
But “in some cases our calls fall on deaf ears,” Wells said.
While all blood groups are needed, Concannon said the Red Cross is “in urgent need of platelets and type O blood.”
This Friday and Thursday and next Friday, the New Jersey Blood Service will be hosting a pop-up blood drive at the Freehold Raceway Mall in the store between Chico’s and the Cheesecake Factory from 1pm to 7pm.
RWJBarnabas Health will host a blood drive next Thursday at the South Campus of Monmouth Medical Center in Lakewood and on Wednesday June 23 at the Toms River Community Medical Center.
How to make a donation :
The American Red Cross
New Jersey Blood Services Division of the New York Blood Center
Olivia Liu is a reporter who covers Transportation, Red Bank and Western Monmouth County. She can be reached at [email protected]