Brisebois blood drive draws record crowd

About 80 people had to leave before they could donate, so another drive is being held from 4-9:30 p.m. Friday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post on Washington Avenue.

By: Donna Lukiw
   More than 280 people turned out for the Dec. 30 blood drive in Manville in honor of former Manville resident Christine Brisebois, 39, who has been suffering from leukemia.
   The outpouring of donors was hailed as the largest response to an appeal for donations, and forced organizers MIKES for Manville to schedule a follow-up event.
   According to Cindy Flanagan, a volunteer with MIKES, the director of NJ Blood Service, Ann Henry, said she has never seen so many people respond to an appeal in her 27 years with the blood service.
   About 80 had to leave before they could donate, so another drive is being held from 4-9:30 p.m. Friday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post on Washington Avenue.
   In order to make sure there are enough phlebotomists on hand, donors must call Ron Koes at 725-7266 to let him know that they will be coming.
   Ms. Brisebois, now living Hillsborough, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in November, with her white blood cell count three times higher than normal.
   The high count meant the cells were not working in fighting infections, which leads to a build up of the cells in bone marrow, blocking the growth of healthy white blood cells.
   The next day, Ms. Brisebois was transported to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital and has been there since, undergoing chemotherapy treatment and bone marrow biopsies.
   "I’m so proud with how she’s handling this," Troy Brisebois, Christine’s husband, said. "She’s been very courageous."
   Mr. Brisebois said there was no exact family bone marrow match for Ms. Brisebois but her brother, Steve Hribik of San Diego, has donated 20 million cells for a stem cell transplant.
   Over 20 million cells were collected from Mr. Hribik, and now doctors will have to separate the particular cells that will be used in Ms. Brisebois’s treatment.
   According to the National Cancer Institute, after being treated with high-dose anticancer drugs and/or radiation, the patient receives the harvested stem cells, which travel to the bone marrow and begin to produce new blood cells.
   Ms. Brisebois is expected to have the transplant on Friday.
   "Hopefully, by the beginning of February she’ll be able to come home but there will still be visits to the hospital two to three times a week," Mr. Brisebois said.
   Mr. Brisebois said if anyone has an A positive blood type to come to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital to donate their blood since that blood will go either directly to Ms. Brisebois or into her "account."
   "I thought it was fantastic that everyone came out and took the time out to donate blood," Mr. Brisebois said. "We would like to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts."
   The Brisebois family currently lives on Weston Road in Hillsborough. Mr. and Mrs. Brisebois are both 1984 Manville High School graduates and high school sweethearts. They have been married for 17 years and have three children: Rich, 16, Alyssa, 13, and Carly, 11, all attending Hillsborough district schools.