Jamaica groups take on blood shortage woes

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Dozens of medical professionals and community leaders gathered Tuesday at the Allen AME Church in Jamaica to figure out how to replenish New York's blood supply and how to increase donations from minority communities.

"It's not really a blood bank right now, it's more like a pipeline," said Robert Jones, the president and chief executive officer of the New York Blood Center. "The blood is being processed quickly right after it's being donated."

Jones said during the past summer the citywide blood supply fell to a dangerously low point. He said while the city has often relied on excess blood supplies from other parts of the country and Europe, New York must begin to generate its own supply of blood.

About 1,000 people donate blood everyday in the city, but the number needs to reach 1,500 a day to seriously increase the blood supply, Jones said.

He said the donation rates are lower in the black community and this is problematic because blacks often cannot receive type A transfusions, often found in whites, and generally need either type O or type B blood.

"Giving blood helps to give life, and that's what the ministry is all about," said former U.S. Rep. Floyd Flake, the pastor at the Allen AME Church. Flake is the donor diversity chairman of the New York Blood Center.

Blood donation is particularly relevant in the black community because of sickle cell anemia, a potentially debilitating blood disease found mostly in people of African descent, said Geoffrey Doughlin, the chairman of emergency medicine at Jamaica Hospital.

Doughlin said in the last few years doctors have treated sickle cell patients by giving them a new supply of blood every two weeks.

"New blood is like warm water on a dead plant, giving it new life," said Davina Daniels, a woman who suffers from sickle cell anemia and requires chronic transfusions.

"When sickle cell acts up, it's like a traffic jam in the blood," she said.

Daniels said because of the low blood supply, her doctors are forced to wait until her blood flow drops to an excruciatingly low point before she can be given a transfusion.

"It's very hard to wait for a stranger to donate blood," said Daniels, adding that she has a rare blood type and cannot accept donations from any of her family members.

"I look at blood donors as superheros," she said.

Reach reporter Bryan Schwartzman by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.


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