Seeking Blood Donations to Meet Demand

January 23, 2015 | Health Care

By Lauren Wanko

“It strikes me as something easy you can do to help other people,” said Franco Juricic.

For the past 30 years, Juricic has been donating his blood.

“I’m a pancreatic cancer survivor and so for me the idea of giving back only makes sense because people have given a lot for me to be here,” he said.

Franco’s considered a regular at New Jersey Blood Services, a division of New York Blood Center. He’s part of a tiny group in the state. Only 3.6 percent of the population donates regularly.

“We have to import blood from New York and other states to meet the demands of our local hospitals and that’s a continuing struggle for us,” said New Jersey Blood Services Account Manager Barbara Pearson.

In 2012, the Garden State used 31,400 more units of blood than it collected. The Community Blood Council of New Jersey calls the blood shortage an unseen crisis.

“Blood products can’t be synthetically made. It has to come from another human. It’s gotta come from one human being to another,” said New Jersey Community Blood Council Director of Donor Services Penny Moyer.

The winter only exacerbates the problem. Blood drives are often postponed when a storm hits.

“And we may lose as much as 100 units of blood just because of the snowstorms,” said Pearson.

The New Jersey Department of Health says nine out of 10 people will need blood at some point in their lives. Dr. Mina Morgan is donating his platelets and plasma for the first time today, motivated by the overwhelming demand he’s seen at the hospital.

“On a daily basis, my sense is 10 percent of them would need a blood transfusion,” Morgan said.

“One unit of blood can save up to three lives. Someone may get your red cells, someone else may get your platelets and maybe a cancer patient would get your plasma,” said Pearson.

It’s called whole blood donation. It’s typically the most common donation, but donor Drew Daley’s been giving his platelets since the 1990s.

When asked what made him decide to donate, Daley said, “It was something I could do.”

For an apheresis donation, components of the blood are separated. After the needle’s inserted, the blood is drawn, it goes through the tubing into a centrifuge. Here the blood spins and separates — red blood cells, platelets and plasma. Whatever is donated, in this case platelets, go into a collection bag. The donor’s given back plasma and red blood cells. The blood is tested and typed in the lab before it’s shipped to the hospital.

“The demand is always high,” said Pearson.

Which is why staffers at New Jersey Blood Services continue to educate students at high schools and colleges throughout the state about blood donation. Donors can be as young as 16 with parental consent and as old as 75. They’ve got to be healthy and at least 110 pounds.

These donors will probably never meet the patients who needed their blood.

“Afterwards, when you get the email saying your blood donation went to these hospitals, you really feel like concretely, I’ve done something to help someone else,” Juricic said.

“I really couldn’t tell you how many have been helped, but one’s enough. One’s enough for me,” said Daley.