7 On Your Side helps 9/11 first responder gets blood donation reward points back

UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- A 9/11 first responder who spent week at Ground Zero was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year and got sidelined from his passion; donating blood to help others -- which is important right now as New York has a critical blood supply shortage.

But when James Smith, an electrician with NYPD's Counter-terrorism unit, recovered he found out all of his donation points, a lifetime record of giving blood, disappeared.

Smith is known as a "super donor." From platelets to plasma, he's has given more than five gallons of blood. He started giving back in 2005 to honor his late mom who was kept alive by transfusions.

He's given as many times a year as he could since then, accruing reward points for each donation. Just like credit cards - you can redeem points for everything from sunglasses to gift cards and Smith had earned more than 8,300 points

But last year, while dieting for his daughter weddings, he received a dire diagnosis: the 9/11 first responder had prostate cancer.

To protect both donors and recipients, deferrals are given while donors are undergoing treatment for illness.

Smith was was told he'd retain his record and points until he could give again, but after getting a clean bill of health and going to give blood after one year, his points were nowhere to be found.

Smith called and even sent emails -- the points returned but then vanished again.

"I was just going nowhere and I was frustrated," Smith said.

The New York Blood Center had recently implemented a new software system and his points and his deferment were somehow not registered.

"When he came in a year ago and did his cancer deferment, we missed that step. We didn't put the deferment in the profile," said Angela Monteagle, the head of donor services for the New York Blood Center.

She said Smith's points were missing, but never gone for good.

"I got my points back, every one of them," Smith said.

He plans to donate his points -- all 8,300 -- to charity and has an ongoing message to others: Everyone should give blood if you can.

So we took his advice. 7 On Your Side Reporter Nina Pineda donated a pint of blood after learning there is a critical shortage right now.

Only 3 percent of the population globally donates blood, so every drop counts.

Click here for more information on donating blood call 1-800-933-2566.


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