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Local centers seek donations of blood to maintain supply

By Staff | Dec 29, 2008

Because January marks the beginning of National Blood Donor Month, collectors from the Lee Memorial Blood Center are calling on donors to help offset any blood shortages.
“If all who are eligible to donate would do so on a regular basis, blood needs could be met and shortages could become a thing of the past,” said Nancy Hendrick, community relations director for the Lee Memorial Blood Center.
Eligibility to give blood is relatively broad — a person over 16 years old weighing at least 110 pounds who has not donated in the last 56 days. Certain conditions such as high blood pressure or blood-borne diseases may disqualify a potential donor.
The blood center usually struggles to keep up supplies during the new year, Hendrick explained, because people do not feel good or are still on vacation. So officials try to bring in first-time donors to counteract the absence of the regulars.
“During the month of December and January is when the flu season hits,” she said. “There are a lot of donors who are sick right now and you can’t donate blood if you have a cold.”
On the other hand, many seasonal residents move to Southwest Florida during the month of January and help with the local supply, but that also means that more people are getting injured and require blood.
“We reach out to find other individuals or new donors to take their place to keep the inventory,” said Hendrick. “The good thing here is that we have a lot of winter residents who donate.”
All blood types are accepted, but the hospital is always on the prowl for Type O-negative blood, considered universal because it can be used in all transfusions regardless of blood type. Of course, this type is also very rare, said Hendrick.
“You can get 30 people who donate and wind up with two who are Type O-negative,” she said.
Most people choose not to donate blood because they think it will be painful or take too long. Kim Greenlay, a blood center technician for Lee Memorial’s Blood Mobile, said the 10-minute donation hurts less than getting a pierced ear.
The Bloodmobile was parked in front of the Publix at Coral Point on Monday afternoon. Donations were fruitful Sunday, but Greenlay said Monday that there had only been one donor.
“After Christmas we had 42 usable units (pints) from Edison Mall,” she said. “Today is a disappointment because we only had one donor.”
There are many reasons for lower donor turnout — fear of donating, illness or being busy for the holidays. Yet, studies have shown that men can benefit from donating blood.
A 2007 European study found that men who regularly donated blood reduced their chances of developing certain types of cancer. Blood contains iron and depleting some of that mineral also can reduce the risk of heart disease and liver damage.
“Donating blood is healthy for men,” said Greenlay. “It reduces the risk of colon cancer and heart attack, so it’s beneficial for you and your recipient.”
On Friday, JOY-FM will host the 24th Annual Celebration of Life blood drive from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. at the Cracker Barrel at 10090 Daniel’s Parkway in Fort Myers. Donors will receive free JOY-FM T-shirts and refreshments after they give blood.
“The biggest thing is that if you have the time and you feel healthy, come on out and support us this season,” said Hendrick.
Donor centers also are open at Lee Memorial Hospital, HealthPark Medical Center and Cape Coral Hospital. For more information about donating blood locally, call 334-5333.