June 24, 2004 – More than 87 donors rolled up their sleeves to give the gift of life on Wednesday as Hovensa and the Juan F. Luis Hospital blood bank coordinated the annual blood drive at the refinery.
Hovensa has sponsored a blood drive almost every year since 1992, according to the refinery's medical director, Dr. Cora L. Christian. It the "largest blood drive on the island," she said, having collected more than 1,195 pints of blood over the years from Hovensa employees, contractors and their families.
Diane Colabella, whose husband, Rocco, works in Operation Service at the refinery, said she has been a donor every year since 1995. "I do it to save a life," she said just before the nurse stuck a needle into her arm to draw her blood.
Colabella winced as the needle pierced her skin. "Ow!" she said, then, smiling, added: "It just felt like a mosquito bite!" She said she had been encouraging wives and other family members of the refinery workers to come out and donate their blood.
Debra Andrews, Luis Hospital blood bank technician, said the Hovensa drive is very important to the hospital. "We get a large amount of blood in one day from here," she said.
According to Andrews, the hospital uses 80 to 100 pints of blood a month. Blood must be utilized within 42 days of donation. After being tested, the drawn blood is added to the hospital's inventory.
Christian said there are benefits to donating blood. Giving promotes cardiovascular health and the blood is screened for infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis and syphilis.
"It takes six to eight weeks for your body to replenish your blood," she said, and donors during that time should keep their intake of fluids high.
Samuel J. Baptiste, a Hovensa human resources generalist, said the blood drive rallies the employees to make a valuable contribution to their community "This shows our commitment to the community," he said. "The employees donate their blood on a volunteer basis."
A bonus of company blood drives is that if the hospital needs a particular type of blood, the blood bank will have information in its data bank on where to obtain it. "Special blood types can be called up from the registry in emergency cases," Adams said.
Christian would like to see more community organizations organize blood drives. If just one organization a month hosted a blood drive, she said, "the demand could be satisfied."
Andrews agreed. "The hospital needs 1,200 pints of blood a year," she said, but at least 80 percent of the island's blood needs have to be met now through the purchase of blood from the Red Cross in Puerto Rico — at a cost of $250 a pint. "Its better to have local donors," she said.
Christian estimates that the Hovensa blood donations over the years have saved the hospital at least $375,000. These savings make it possible to provide other health-care services, she said.
Andrews asked that community groups interested in hosting blood drives call her office at 778-6659. A drive "can be as small as 20 donors," she said. "We can even bring a mobile van."
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