Great things happened in 2023 at the Blood Bank of Delmarva with the implementation of new technology, pilot programs, and new partnerships. As we continue to rebuild from the devastating impact of the pandemic, we tried new strategies for raising awareness and encouraging blood donations during the most critical periods of the year. We implemented new FDA individual donor assessment criteria, opening up blood donation to newly eligible individuals, expanded our footprint and hosted blood drives in Washington, DC, and began a new program to ensure that the donor experience is exceptional to be sure that our donors return often to donate.
We’d like to share our highlights from 2023 below
- In January, we held our largest blood drive of the year in Ocean City, Maryland, and 609
donors came out for the three-day blood drive held in the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. That surpassed our goal set by Executive Director Nicole Pineault and BBD Account Manager Bryan Shepherd. Ocean City is crucial to winter collections. Next year, we’re going to try to shatter the record and go for 1,000 donors.
- In February, we met Samantha Marshall and she told us the story of her daughter, Oakley Louisignau, now 3. She was our first recipient story addition of the year. Oakley was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia in December 2021, and she received more than 50 red cell and platelet transfusions. Samantha and her partner, Jon Louisignau, became donors with us this year. Fast forwarding to May, we met another recipient, Madison Handley, 13. She has battled two stints of childhood cancer. At the tender age of 2, Madison was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, and in the fall of 2022, Madison was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. She has had surgery, chemotherapy, and several blood and platelet transfusions. Her family held a successful blood drive in May, and she is forever in our hearts. Last, but not least, we just met firefighter AJ Riccio in November. That’s when his family, led by brother Paul Riccio, held a successful blood drive to give back the units AJ received after a stroke. It was great to get to know the Riccio family.
- In March, BBD and the Translational Research and Development Lab kicked off the Deferred Donor Pilot Program at the Christiana site! The program is intended for some prior blood donors who are now ineligible for donation for clinical care to donate for research only. This allows them to contribute in another, innovative, lifesaving way.
- In May, Wall Street Journal Pro Venture Capital featured the article, “New Venture Fund Targets Innovations in Blood Research,” highlighting the work of New York Blood Center (BBD’s parent organization) fund dedicated to blood-related fields and cell therapies to back startups working on benign hematology, infectious diseases, cell therapies, devices, transfusion medicine.
- BBD’s new partnerships with Sussex County Paramedics and New Castle County Paramedics implemented in May enabled the transfusion of whole blood in the field. For instance, they can now transfuse a critical patient at the scene of a car accident before they are transported to the hospital. Special thanks to the Director of Laboratories Kristin Frederick and Manager, Hospital Services Jessica Camponelli, and Director, Quality Margaret Hannan for their work to make this lifesaving program a reality. Sussex County and New Castle County EMS have used approximately 80 Type O Positive, Low Titer Whole Blood units to date.
- In June, Donor Services began using TRIMA platelet machines in the Dover Donor Center, allowing for more precise matching of donor demographics to the specific products needed by patients. TRIMA platelet machines allow donors to donate single platelets, double platelets, triple platelets, platelet–red cell, plasma, etc. This technology is increasing BBD’s overall “platelet split rate” to meet the goal of optimizing donations to help more patients. Special thanks to the Director of Donor Services Technical Operations Rachele Allison, and her staff for their assistance in this implementation.
- In July, the Blood Bank of Delmarva and the Translational Research and Development Lab (TRDL) hosted a Delaware BioScience Association BioBreakfast in which over 100 members of the state’s bioscience community attended! NYBCe and BBD Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Sachais, who oversees the TRDL, and Program Specialist Sarah McMahon networked with various members of the bioscience community at the successful event.
- For the second straight year, BBD Marketing partnered with Major League Baseball to offer tickets to donors as an incentive to get us through the critical Fourth of July, mid-summer collections period. Donors were excited to get tickets to either the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies, who were both contenders in the American League and National League, respectively. They were hot tickets! Speaking of hot tickets, the Blood for a Brew Summer Tour was back by popular demand for the third straight year, and our partnership with local breweries helped us keep hospitals stocked during the critical summer months.
- New ways to raise awareness of the constant need for blood included our Anchor on the Roof this past summer, Anchor Boxed this fall, and Trunk or Treat the evening before Halloween. These were fun, innovative ways to attract new and young donors. “Anchor on the Roof” with NBC10 reporter Tim Furlong took place on July 6 and brought in 311 donors at a time when it had been months since we got to 300. “Anchor Boxed In” with WBOC correspondent Katie Zarrilli was another media partnership that took place on October 26 and brought in 242 donors. (Salisbury made goal that day.) Nicole Pineault wanted to implement this fun media partnership from an idea gleaned from the ADRP 2022 conference in Phoenix. Thank you to everyone who made this event a success, including our secret weapon, Marketing Coordinator Sharon Brunell. We also want to give a special thanks to Manager, Facilities Chuck Needles and Supervisor, Accounting Wade Petters for their vital assistance with materials and Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications Andrea Cefarelli and Director of Public Relations Chelsey Smith for their helpful guidance. One more word about media: special thanks to Director of Donor Recruitment Joanna Arat for her help in getting us published in Delaware Today magazine!
- This past fall, BBD elevated its celebration of Sickle Cell Awareness Month in September with the third annual Sickle Cell Association of Delaware Blood Drive held on September 4. Sickle Cell Association Executive Director Donna Monroe was impressed with our efforts to raise awareness about the fact that one in three African American donors is a match for sickle cell patients, and more than 50 percent of Black donors have type O blood. She pledged her support to help us with future efforts.
- We were proud to work with the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives to host blood drives on Capitol Hill in September, helping raise awareness on the challenges for blood centers across the U.S. and the need for youth donations. In September, we held inaugural blood drives at the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., expanding our reach to Capitol Hill. Nicole Pineault and Bryan Shepherd worked with the offices of U.S. Senator Tom Carper (Delaware) and U.S. Representative Andy Harris (Maryland) to hold blood drives that attracted a significant number of young donors. These young donors (ages 17-34) comprised 81 percent of the 50 donors at the Senate and 35 donors at the House.
- Implementation of FDA-approved Individual Donor Assessment criteria in October eliminated the policies that prevented sexually active gay and bisexual men from donating blood. In its place, the FDA established a blood donor screening process based on Individual Donor Assessment, not sexual or gender identity.
- We updated our donor criteria to allow 16-year-olds with parental consent to donate blood. We were one of the only states in the U.S. that did not invite and allow these young donors to donate. This change will help rebuild our youth donations. We have seen positive results of this addition, including at such large draws as Saint Mark’s High School and Salesianum School, where several 16-year-olds donated, respectively, this fall semester. In the case of Sallies, blood drive coordinator Father Brian estimated 80 percent of the 56 donors were first-time donors.
- During the November Town Hall meeting, NYBCe President and CEO Christopher D. Hillyer, MD, along with Chief Operating Officer, Adrian David, announced a plan to revamp the donor experience to attract more young and first-time donors and build our overall donor base. The goal is to ensure a strong future for blood collections.
- This past fall, Adrian also announced a realignment of leadership that included the promotion of enterprise and BBD leaders. Vice President Beau Tompkins, who is based at Rhode Island Blood Center, is now VP of Blood Bank of Delmarva as well. Steve Corse, who has been Director, Human Resources, was promoted to Executive Director, Blood Operations at BBD, and Nicole Pineault, was promoted to Executive Director, Blood Operations at RIBC.
- Community Events were a large focus this year, and Community Relations and Volunteer Specialist Angela Williamson reports that BBD staff and volunteers attended 68 events in 2023, including the recent, holiday parades with BBD vehicles and our beloved Delmar or Marydel mascots. Thousands of people were educated on our life-saving work throughout Delmarva, Volunteer engagement helped with numerous projects behind the scenes, and enhanced the donor experience with volunteers greeting donors, watching for reactions, and serving the new snacks and drinks with a smile and more! As of the end of October, 193 volunteers served BBD for a total of 16,410 hours total, resulting in an estimated $500,000 in cost savings to BBD.
- In September, we celebrated the fifth annual Maverick Week and In Honor of Maverick Blood Drive, celebrating the fifth birthday of blood recipient Maverick Ford Painter. From September 4 to September 9, we saw 1,387 donors, and we collected 1,246 products, reports Director, Technical Operations Rachele Allison. It was a monumental celebration for a little boy who has come a long way and is near and dear to our hearts.
- BBD is beginning to rebuild our local blood donations to pre-pandemic levels. Anticipated annual red cell donations for through the end of December 2023 are approximately 64,000 and 12,000 platelet products. Our goal is to rebuild community blood and blood product donations to more than 100,000 to meet the needs of patients in the hospitals that we serve.
- Looking ahead to the New Year, 2024 will begin with a press conference for National Blood Donor Month, an ideal time to raise awareness of the fragility of the blood supply post-holidays. BBD will host a press conference on January 4 at Christiana Hospital with U.S. Senator Tom Carper, Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long, New Castle County Government, the parents of Maverick Painter and two hospital partners, ChristianaCare and Nemours.
Thank you to our employees, volunteers, community partners, and blood, platelet, and plasma donors. Here’s to all the endless possibilities for 2024, Happy holidays.