Making a difference during National Blood Donor Month
When Hicksville resident Arjun Mainali was attending college in his home country of Nepal, he read a story that would change his life and hundreds of others. The piece, titled “The Blood Donor,” inspired Mainali to give blood for the first time at age 19 in 1987.
“I have seen, so many times, [people] were afraid to donate blood as they used to think donating blood makes their body weaker,” he explained. “Seeing this situation, I decided to donate blood. I thought maybe I could save people.”
Mainali has since gone on to donate blood 172 times across 17 countries, helping to save the lives of 516 people.
January is National Blood Donor Month, the perfect time to resolve to be a regular blood donor and help save lives. Extreme winter weather in some parts of the country and seasonal illnesses often make it difficult for the American Red Cross to maintain a sufficient blood supply at this time of year. Blood donations and platelets cannot be artificially manufactured so volunteers are vital and directly impact those in need of blood. In fact, one donation has the potential to save up to three lives, according to the American Red Cross. Each donation helps the millions of Americans each year who require blood transfusions during surgery, after an accident or due to illness.
East Meadow resident Frank Palmeri, an avid donor who has been coordinating drives at St. Brigid R.C. Church in Westbury for seven years, along with fellow church members Joanna Palumbo and Maggie Cunningham-Brown, has seen first-hand the impact a donation makes in the community.
“I was disposed to do something like this,” Palmeri explained. “When I was very young, my mother had several procedures done in a short time. The hospital asked, because of my mother, for us to gather friends and family to donate blood. From a young age, I knew that donating blood was critical to recovery. I wanted to save someone else’s mom.”
The church hosts semi-annual drives, along with a third drive in collaboration with the New York Blood Center, each year. The annual drives result in 250 donations, Palmeri said, but the need is still great. The next scheduled blood drive at the church is on May 28, from 3 to 9 p.m. in St. Anthony’s Hall.
“We need more young people to donate,” he said. “We are always approaching people who have yet to donate because it is something great that you’ll be doing for yourself and the community. The experience is so rewarding.”
Hicksville resident Jennifer Lentini has relied on community blood drives like these for most of her life. At age 13, she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. Shortly after, Lentini received a heart transplant and still needs blood transfusions.
“Blood donors give people a second chance to live everyday lives,” Lentini said. “If it wasn’t for donations, I wouldn’t be here today. Donors are angels.”
The 36-year-old Lentini frequently shares her personal story during New York Blood Center events to encourage others to donate.
“The greatest thing is when someone comes up to me and says they want to donate after they hear my story,” she said. “They say they hope to help save lives. They are giving the greatest gift.”
For 32 years, Mainali has dedicated his life to educating, advocating, encouraging, promoting and creating awareness about the importance of blood donations. He has traveled to six continents and 14 states for the sole purpose of donating blood. Since moving to Hicksville in 2000, Mainali has also organized dozens of local donation drives. Last month, Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino recognized Mainali for his astounding accomplishments as a dedicated blood donor. Saladino proclaimed Dec. 22, 2019 to be “World Blood Donor Arjun Mainali Day” in the Town of Oyster Bay in recognition of his selfless and lifesaving efforts. Saladino noted that this date is particularly fitting because Dec. 22, 1818 was the date of the first documented transfusion of human blood.
“My aim is to inspire more and more people to donate blood,” Mainali said. “I tried to motivate as many people as I could. I have spent several nights without even blinking my eyes, planning for the next day’s event. I have seen blood donation even in my dreams so many times.”
The process is simple and safe. You can donate whole blood every 56 days or up to six times a year. Anyone who is in good health, is older than 16 and weighs at least 110 pounds is eligible to donate, according to the American Red Cross.
“Donating blood is not harmful,” Mainali said. “All healthy people can do it so don’t be afraid to donate.”
Before you donate be sure to eat at your regular mealtimes and drink plenty of fluids, according to the New York Blood Center. If you are donating platelets, do not take aspirin or products containing aspirin, for at least 48 hours before your appointment. The process usually takes less than an hour.
“Once you begin to donate and understand the importance, you’ll be likely to donate again,” Palmeri concluded. “You will feel wonderful knowing that you saved someone’s life.”
Long Island Donor Centers
The following is a list of New York Blood Center’s Long Island Donor Centers. Schedule an appointment online at donate.nybc.org/donor/schedules/zip
- Lake Success Donor Center, 2500 Marcus Ave, Lake Success (1/4 mile East of Lakeville Road)
- Massapequa Donor Center, 1050 Sunrise Highway, Massapequa (Next to Vitamin Shoppe, just east of Kohl’s)
- Rockville Centre Donor Center, 290 Sunrise Highway, Rockville Centre