JAMAICA, Queens (PIX11) – Donating blood is an anonymous gift, and most of the time, the gift receiver never meets the gift giver, but they did on Monday at NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens in Jamaica.

Shatera Weaver is an educator who has sickle cell disease and is hospitalized seasonally to receive blood transfusions. Christine Van Benschoten is a retiree who lives upstate in Ulster County, where she is a regular blood donor.

“It is people like you who take the time to donate that can help save a life and it has absolutely saved mine,” Weaver told Van Benschoten.

“It’s something one should do and so I do it,” Van Benschoten said.

The pair also met the blood specialist, Karlene Darby, who collected the live-saving donation.

“My work — I see the product of what I do and it’s overwhelming,” Darby said.

The transfusion took place at NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens in October 2020.

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month, so New York Blood Center is using this time of year to address the need for blood donations. The organization says New York State has 10% of the nation’s sickle cell population.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder where red blood cells become crescent-shaped. Statistically, the disease is more common in Black individuals.  

“Probably no other disease exemplifies systemic racism than sickle cell disease,” said Dr. Kenneth Rivlin, a hematologist. “It’s a serious chronic, genetic disease that is characterized by pain, organ damage, and early mortality.”

The number of youth and first-time donors plummeted for NYBC during the pandemic, making blood drives, like the one at the hospital, crucial.

Weaver is also the face of the blood campaign and since last June, the hospital has had more 300 donations.

“I just want to reiterate my gratitude and also reiterate the call to action for other people to be just as diligent for blood donation,” Weaver added. “It really does take less than an hour and it extends lifetimes.”

If you would like to help save a life by donating blood, click here to find the nearest blood donation center