By Cindy Hsu

CHATHAM, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — We’ve been telling you about the emergency blood shortage that’s now at a crisis level.

CBS2’s Cindy Hsu spoke to a New Jersey family about the lifesaving need to donate.

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The DiMaggio family has been holding blood drives for several years in honor of Michael, who’s now 18 and a freshman in college.

At 11 years old, Michael was hit by a car walking home from school in Chatham and barely survived.

“In the first 72 hours of the accident, he required more than seven blood transfusions in order to save his life,” said Nicole DiMaggio, Michael’s mother. “In total, he was in the hospital for three months, and in total, he went into surgery ten times.”

It took Michael two years to recover, and since then, the family has been holding “Stay Strong Michael” blood drives every year.

“It’s way more important than anybody can ever really think because … you don’t see where it goes, but I know firsthand that it always goes to a good cause,” Michael said.

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The American Red Cross says right now, it’s in dire need of people to donate blood.

“This is the worst crisis of blood shortage in over a decade, and we’ve seen the decline ever since the pandemic began,” said Rosie Taravella, with the American Red Cross of New Jersey. “Doctors are being forced to make difficult decisions about who can receive transfusions and who might have to wait a bit.”

“I would say to everybody out there, go donate blood because you could save a couple of lives and it would be really nice to know that one day if you needed it or one of your loved ones needed it, that the blood would be there,” Nicole DiMaggio said.

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The family is so grateful to all the people who saved Michael’s life, including first responders on the accident scene, that Nicole became an EMT.

“I joined the Chatham Emergency Squad and I have been a volunteer EMT ever since, and it is without question one of the best things I’ve ever done,” Nicole DiMaggio said.

She says nearly losing Michael put life in perspective.

“Since the accident, one of the things that I say is that a good day for me is a day that ends with all three of my children safely in their beds,” she said.

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Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh is also encouraging everyone to donate.

“We have a blood drive here at the fire department. We made that announcement on Monday. Not many people attended, but we really have a shortage as far as the blood supply is concerned. In fact, St. Joe’s Hospital is suffering as a result,” he said.

The city will hold another blood drive on Friday, Jan. 21, at the Paterson Fire Department headquarters.

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The American Red Cross says due to COVID, some of the blood drives have been getting canceled but is asking people to be patient and to please make an appointment to donate blood. For more information on how to donate blood, visit redcross.org/give-blood.

Cindy Hsu