Blood Bank of Delmarva apheresis tech Joy Delucia has been collecting platelets that help cancer patients for 22 years.
It has always been fulfilling work for Joy, who has been ”grooving right along” as a Blood Collection Tech at BBD for 24 years in total. For those who know her favorite season and holiday, respectively, that’s 24 autumns and 24 Halloweens.
But, when Joy found out she had breast cancer for a second time earlier this year, she decided to take it head on and undergo a double mastectomy last March.
“It was not groovy,” Joy said.
Her medical team at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center had found a tumor the size of a fingertip, at the earliest possible moment, during a mammogram she attended with her daughter.
Joy underwent chemotherapy, and she lost her hair. But she had her last dose in August, and she has resumed working full-time. It will be some time before her hair fully grows back, but she’s feeling good about her progress.
She has also been on a mission to raise awareness about the need for blood and platelet donors, and that includes the month of October when we celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“If I have to go through this, then let’s put a positive spin on this,” she said. “We need to engage. There’s a large population of people who do not know. I might as well make it my mission to bring in new platelet donors. … Because we are desperate for donors right now.”
Joy is correct in that a few numbers may begin to scratch the surface as to why blood or platelet shortages continue to persist. Universally speaking, 62 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate, but only 3 percent of them do, according to America’s Blood Centers. Blood Bank of Delmarva is a member of ABC.
In addition, BBD lags in a few subgroups of the population. African Americans (23% of the population of Delaware) and Hispanic Americans (10%) are underrepresented as 5.1 percent of BBD’s donors are African American while 1.8 percent are Latino. And yet, an estimated 51 percent of African Americans have type O blood, and one in three of them are a match for sickle cell patients. Meanwhile, 57 percent of Latinos have type O blood, according to industry estimates.
BBD leaders are searching for new ways to attract donors.
“There are people who need help and this is my opportunity to help and teach people about why we need platelet donors,” Joy said. “There’s too much to do. If I can open that door and get them to understand that two hours is not a lot of time so someone can go on living, this is just a bump in the road and we’ll take it and go. If this helps us collect products, then I’ve done a pretty good job. Doctors and nurses ask me what I do for a living and when I tell them, they say, wow. I use it as an opportunity to ask, have you ever donated platelets? I am leaving no stone unturned.”
The blood emergency declared on September 14 has been lifted, but there is a critical need right now for platelet donors at the Blood Bank of Delmarva.