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City blood center gets most in ’08 from St. John’s University

With more and more businesses distracted by the economic crisis, corporations are less likely to be holding blood drives — leaving the New York City Blood Center to rely more heavily on donations from area colleges and universities, including St. John’s University.

Center officials recently praised St. John’s University for donating more blood — about 1,774 pints — in the past year than any other educational institution in the city.

“Colleges like St. John’s are the one source that are reliable in their donations, and their students are so great,” said Leslie Gonzalez, media relations specialist at the New York Blood Center.

Winter is always a difficult time for blood banks, Gonzalez said, with severe weather often canceling drives. This year it has been even more trying for the blood center, since the tough fiscal times have made businesses more preoccupied with other matters, leaving blood drives to fall by the wayside. The combination of the center’s regular winter blues and the souring economy forced its officials to issue an emergency appeal Jan. 13 for blood donations.

Before last weekend, blood supplies dropped below the five−day safety level, and some types of blood, including O and RH negative, were at less than a two−day level.

“If a trauma patient came in, they can actually use a vast amount of blood, and we were wondering if someone comes in with a massive trauma case if they’d wipe out the whole supply if they happened to be O or RH negative,” Gonzalez said.

In response to the shortage, St. John’s is responding with a blood drive Feb. 5 in the Carnesecca Arena from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Kevin Ryan, associate to the vice president for community relations at St. John’s, said the school has significantly increased its number of blood drives over the past several years.

“In 2004, we got something like 350 pints for the year on the Queens campus and now we’re above 1,300,” Ryan said.

Ryan and his boss, Vice President for Community Relations Joseph Sciame, co−chair the university’s recently formed blood drive committee.

Ryan said school officials are pushing to publicize the blood drives and the school now holds about eight to 10 12−hour drives a semester in Queens, up from about three four−hour blood events several years ago.

“We’ve made it a very visible part of campus culture,” Ryan said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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