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Blood donors don’t take a holiday

Chris Marchese of Bay Shore donates platelets recently

Chris Marchese of Bay Shore donates platelets recently at the New York Blood Center in Bohemia. Credit: Newsday / Lane Filler

For drivers headed down Veterans Memorial Highway on Independence Day, it would have been easy to miss the clot of cars parked at the Bohemia branch of the New York Blood Center. The building sits off the bustling road, and few rushing to the beach or the barbecue would think to glance over. There was good work being done there by people sacrificing time and enduring pain to help others, and it didn’t attract any attention.

Such good work, going on all around us, mostly doesn’t, not even in newspaper columns, not even in this newspaper column. But unceasing negativity is a distortion, a lie of omission.

The Donald Trump haters and their opponents reached a new crescendo of name-calling this week in the wake of revelations about Donald Trump Jr.’s Russian rendezvous. Such venom, directed not just at politicians but also at their supporters, is astonishing. We are a far better nation, and this includes those who seem to be our opponents and our obstacles. Attention must be paid to the good. To not savor it with the bad sours the taste of life.

So, Independence Day at the blood center. The doors opened for donors before 8 a.m., and stayed open until 2:30 p.m. Around noon, eight lounge-like chairs were occupied, most of them by donors watching small TVs as machines whirred away and blood flowed.

Platelet donors, says New York Blood Center executive director of donor recruitment Andrea Cefarelli, are a special lot. They can give up to 24 times a year, and many do, even though it is a bit painful and can take two hours.

“You get sucked in,” said Frank Robinson, 66, of Bay Shore, who was waiting for his pre-donation check around 11:30 a.m. and has been giving regularly for years. “I always donated blood, and one day they asked about platelets and I said, ‘Sure, I’ll try it,’ and then they keep you coming with the emails.” At this, the two women waiting nearby to donate nodded and smiled, acknowledging the power of the emails to regular donors.

The emails tell donors when platelets, which only last five days before spoiling, are running short because it is summer or Christmas and the colleges and high schools aren’t holding drives. Platelets can be derived from whole blood donors, but it’s a tiny fraction of what platelet donors can provide. The emails include a photo of a beautiful youngster who needs the platelets to help recover from leukemia treatments, life-threatening injuries or major surgeries, because they help blood clot.

“I do it because I know there’s such a need for it,” said Chris Marchese, 64, of Bay Shore. She sees the need all the time, working at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Commack, and she gives because, “I know a lot of people aren’t willing to use their time.”

But it is notable that so many are — regardless of background or political bent, judging by the bumper stickers in the parking lot on July 4.

If you spot the wall of fame in a New York Blood Center on Long Island, you’ll see the first name up top is Ed Burch of Huntington Station. He’s given platelets more than 400 times. He’s 88; a note from his doctor lets him keep giving past the normal age limit of 70.

“I used to give whole blood,” Burch said, “and I saw others doing the platelets, and asked if I could. I think it might have been in the 1970s.”

He just keeps going and giving and saving lives, quietly.

We are a nation of complex people. We flood the Internet with bile, and the food banks and hospitals and animal shelters with succor. Hate gets most of the attention, but love is everywhere, too, and must be savored. Lane Filler is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.