HOWELL – Giving blood will be a whole lot easier now that a facility that can fill that desperate need for residents of Ocean and Monmouth counties has reopened.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held recently opening the donor center which the area has been without for two years. Blood donors, patients who have received life-saving blood and others from the central Jersey community came together for the ceremony at the Howell Donor Center.
The event was held from noon to 2 p.m. at the facility located at 4068 Route 9 South in the township.
After Central Jersey, a nonprofit organization shut down on Dec. 31, 2018, residents of Ocean and Monmouth Counties were left without a facility to donate blood, platelets and plasma to their neighbors in need.
New Jersey Blood Services, a division of New York Blood Center, responded by holding more mobile blood drives in the area, but they were still not enough to make up for the loss. Regular donors stopped donating and plasma and platelets cannot be collected at mobile drives.
Nearly 2,000 donations are needed each day in New York and New Jersey alone, so this was a major loss for the entire region. Now, more than a year later, New Jersey Blood Services has re-opened a donor center in Howell, which used to serve more than 1,180 donors. Founded in 1964, New York Blood Center (NYBC) is a nonprofit organization that is one of the largest independent, community-based blood centers in the world.
“The closure of the Howell Donor Center was a major blow and we’re thrilled to be able to bring back this vital facility,” Director of Recruitment Marie Forrestal said. “Blood is perishable and there’s no substitute for human blood, so we’re dependent on regular donors to keep up the region’s supply. This will help strengthen the region’s blood supply and ensure it’s available on the shelves for those in need.”
Long-time blood donors from the community were in attendance, including John and Mary Ellen McLean who have made 96 and 109 donations respectively. Neptune resident Laura Scalese, the mother of 2-year-old baby Charlotte also thanked the community for their support.
Baby Charlotte was diagnosed with neuroblastoma and has had surgery, chemotherapy and two stem cell transplants, and has received more than 100 pints of blood and platelets.
Scalese said, “having these kinds of facilities facilitates having more people to make a lifesaving donation especially in cases like my daughter. In one of her transplants alone, she needed 30 bags of blood. In total she needed 60 bags so having these kinds of centers doesn’t create such a nerve wracking need whereas now there might be an overabundance which is good because there are so many kids that we met just like Charlotte on the oncology ward who desperately need blood just as much as she did.”
She added that she was happy to report her daughter was doing well. “She is doing much better thank god. She is on her last leg of treatment. So hopefully she will be cancer free and on the road to normal toddlerhood. We are looking forward to normalcy.”
“We need 70,000 units of blood to meet patient needs. Charlotte is just one story,” Forrestal said.
It takes one hour to donate blood, and a single donation can be used to save multiple lives. About one in seven hospital admissions requires a blood transfusion, and with a limited shelf life, supplies must be continually replenished.
Those in need include: cancer patients, accident, burn, or trauma victims, newborn babies and their mothers, transplant recipients, surgery patients, chronically transfused patients suffering from sickle cell disease or thalassemia, and many more. Donors with O-negative blood type, or “universal donors,” are especially encouraged to come out and give blood in the future.
Forrestal said, “people in New Jersey are used to convenience and so this is a good location as it isn’t too far and won’t take up a half day of time for them to donate blood.”