Last updated: February 20. 2013 1:55AM - 840 Views

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PITTSTON TWP. ?? Twelve years into her career as a paramedic, Jolynne Frie of Nanticoke began experiencing chest pains and shortness of breath.

The 36-year-old single mother of five and full-time student said she soon discovered she had a rare blood disorder and needed a transfusion. Similarly, as a medic, Frie said she witnessed firsthand the dire need for blood donations. ??I saw everything from car accidents to gunshot wounds,? she said. ??Even someone who gives birth loses a lot of blood.?

For those and other reasons, Frie was on hand Saturday to support the inaugural blood drive at the new Geisinger Blood Center in the CenterPoint Commerce and Trade Park.

Geisinger Health System opened the center in partnership with The Institute for Transfusion Medicine last year as a way of ensuring a reliable supply of blood, plasma and platelets for patients, according to prior reports.

Blood collected during this weekend??s drive ?? and all other Geisinger drives ?? will be distributed regionally in the Geisinger service area for Geisinger patients. Blood Center Director Mike Quinn said the goal for the 6,400-square-foot facility is to collect at least 25,000 units yearly and to be self-sufficient within five years. ??Our goal is for this blood center to supply the whole Geisinger system,? he said.

Leon Ezbitski, a production specialist at the center, explained how blood is processed. He is one of several employees who are cross-trained to perform a series of steps to separate, clean, label and store the blood.

Multiple sensors on the walls indicate temperature changes in the rare event of a power outage. There is a back-up generator. ??The refrigerators have sensors which go to the laptop and iPhone,? added Quinn. ??Everybody??s notified.?

Only five percent of the U.S. population eligible to donate blood actually does so, said Shawn James, account executive for the blood center. ??A lot of people are eligible to donate blood, and they don??t even know it,? he said, adding that one donation potentially can save three lives.

Geisinger holds weekly blood drives at area businesses and Geisinger sites. ??We want to branch out to colleges, high schools and the community to let people know we??re here,? he said.

Frie represented her current employer, Lone Star Steakhouse, which, along with Perkins Restaurant in Pittston, donated food that was served to the blood donors. ??It??s so great for me to be here today,? said Frie, pointing out that she will have to have a blood transfusion nearly once a year for the rest of her life. ??Without the blood donors, I wouldn??t be alive,? she said.

Mariah Fabbri, 21, of Pittston, and also a Lone Star employee, anxiously waited to donate blood for the first time. ??I tried to donate once in high school, but things didn??t go as planned,? she said. ??My veins were too small. So I thought, ??Why not now??????

Blood Drives

? Monday: Deluxe Digital in Studios, Moosic.

? Wednesday: Geisinger Community Medical Center, Scranton.

? Thursday: Geisinger Orthopaedic Institute, Plains Township

? Friday: Prime Inc., Pittston.

? To make an appointment, call 1-866-996-5100 or visit www.geisingerbloodcenter.org.

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