Doacao de Sangue – The Gift of Life in Any Language

HYANNIS – In big letters, the sign said, “Doacao de sangue.” That’s Portuguese for “blood donation.”

A recent blood drive at the Revival Presbyterian Church in Hyannis drew a large turnout from the Cape’s Brazilian community. In part, it was a tribute to a local pastor who knows the importance of blood donations.

Earlier this year, the church’s senior pastor, Marcelo Pretti, and his daughter both received blood transfusions.

“This blood drive was extra special,” he said. “Every time someone in our congregation needs to go to Cape Cod Hospital, we are served as well as possible.”

Turnout for the blood drive on Sept. 21 was a little stronger because of the pastor’s experience, said Jonathan DeCoste, senior blood donor recruiter for Cape Cod Healthcare. Most community drives collect 25 to 30 units of blood, and this one collected 37 units, many of them from first-time donors.

One of the first-time donors was Ionara Bastos, who admitted to being a little nervous when she arrived.

“It didn’t hurt,” she said. “It felt like when you go to the doctor and they draw blood. I like to help people and this benefits the community.”

Leandro de Oliveira, an interpreter for Cape Cod Healthcare, was there to help donors fill out forms and communicate with the donation team.

“I was here last year and saw many of the same people,” he said. “If they have a question, or if they have any doubts, then I’m here to guide them or reassure them. In Brazil, people donate blood all the time. It’s a cultural thing.”

The blood drive was organized by the church’s health ministry. The congregation sponsors food and care for 180 children in Mozambique and builds about a house a month in Africa.

“We also felt the need to help our own community, so we started the health ministry to provide information and guidance,” said Pastor Pretti.

Michael Mecenas, head of the church’s health ministry, is a psychotherapist who also works at Boston Medical Center and Cape Cod Healthcare as a tri-lingual-medical interpreter.

“I know how important it is to combine health and spirituality,” he said. “Little by little we’re trying to do things to help each other and help the community.”

The health ministry’s efforts include fitness classes, seminars on nutrition and other health topics, and support groups for breast cancer survivors and people with eating disorders. The ministry also acts as a bridge between the congregation and the medical community by helping church members find primary care and specialty providers.

“We spread the word around our community about the importance of giving blood,” Mecenas said. “I describe it as a bank account. Deposit right now and maybe in the future you’re going to need it, and it’s going to be there for you.”

Patricia Nogueira is a nutritionist who volunteers with the health ministry.

“We’ve been talking about the blood drive in the community, announcing it on Facebook and trying to get as many people as possible,” she said.

DeCoste has been part of the church’s recruitment efforts.

“Before the last blood drive, I came in and spoke to the parish to thank them for their ongoing support,” he said. “We had part of my speech translated into Portuguese..”

The church’s health ministry is hosting a “Pink October” event, from 5-9 p.m. on Oct. 28, on the topic of “The Power of Self-Esteem in Women’s Health and Beauty.” Guest speakers will include Laura Ventura Teixeira, a nurse and former Miss Cape Cod; Catrina Welch, an author and life coach; and Barnstable County public health nurses Linda Iafrate and Celine Hardy.

“We want to be known as a congregation that helps others,” said Pastor Pretti.

[PHOTO: Volunteers at the sign-in desk, left to right: Patricia Nogueira, Flavia Damaso, Isabela Mecenas and Ana Paula Ribeiro]

By BILL O’NEILL, Cape Cod Health News

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