Bayit collects blood in wake of Harvey

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It only takes a few minutes, and it could change not only the lives of New Yorkers, but also those living along the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale holds its 16th annual commemorative blood drive on Sunday, Sept. 10 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. While it’s typically part of its day of service honoring those killed on 9/11, this year’s drive — in partnership with the New York Blood Center — also will assist blood centers in and around storm-ravaged areas in Texas.

“This is a very vital and critical need, and in addition to our local one, that we can answer and help with at this drive,” said Seryl Ritter, the Bayit’s event chairperson. As of last week, supplies of Type O-positive and Type O-negative since some blood centers on the Gulf were under water.

Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, dumped more than 40 inches of rain, left at least 48 people dead in its immediate aftermath, and sent thousands more to shelters while racking up damage expected to be in the billions.

The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center, which claims on its website it needs to collect at least 1,000 donations daily for the 170 hospitals it serves, was unable to do any of that last week because of the storm.

For Sunday’s event, those participating in the Bayit’s drive could provide a “double mitzvah,” according to Ritter. A blood machine known as Alyx will allow donors to undergo a process known as apheresis, doubling the number of red blood cells given during a single donation. It typically helps trauma, surgery and cancer patients, as well as those suffering from anemia.

Refreshments will be on hand for donors, while volunteers are available to watch children, Ritter said. Prior to giving blood, potential donors are taken to a private area to test blood pressure and iron levels to ensure they are in good health.

Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the United States, according to the American Red Cross. Additionally, every 2 seconds, someone is in need of blood.

Bayit, located at 3700 Henry Hudson Parkway, hopes to exceed the 130 donors it welcomed with its most recent blood drive this past winter, Ritter said. The New York Blood Center will determine which donations stay in the state, and which will head to the Gulf Coast.

The blood center is a community-based nonprofit, and one of the largest collection and distribution organizations in the United States, according to their website.

The American Friends of Magen David Adom, Israel’s national ambulance and disaster relief organization, is a third supporter of the blood drive. Blood could also be made available to assist Israel if the country needed some in an emergency situation, Ritter said.

“We would be extremely grateful to see as many faces — old ones, new ones — meeting this need and joining us,” Ritter said. “We’re all ready to do what we can. So, we look forward to everyone joining us and giving blood, the gift of life.”

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