Blood Donors Dry Up in Off Season: September 22, 2012

There is no off-season for blood products, but this time of year donations dry up.

“We need about 800 units a week just to keep up the demand of all the hospitals and outlying sites that use blood,” says Nancy Hendrick, Community Relations Coordinator for Lee Memorial Blood Center.

Any time of year, Jim Sherman is always willing to roll up his sleeve.

“They mentioned to me how badly platelets are really needed, so I figure if I can spend a little bit of time every couple of weeks or so donating platelets then it’s good for me; it’s good for them,” says Sherman, a platelet donor.

On this morning, he has the donation center all to himself. Blood recipients are more abundant. When it’s slow season in Southwest Florida, people schedule elective surgeries. That’s only one demand for this valuable, natural resource.

“There’s still a lot of traumas.  Some people get a hip replacement or surgery scheduled, and also the cancer center uses a lot of blood and blood products,” says Hendrick.

And like the milk and other perishables in your fridge, blood has an expiration date. So even if there was a record number of donations a few months ago, it wouldn’t fill the void today. Even blood has a shelf life.

“Forty-two days, but it never stays on the shelf for 42 days, it’s turned around really quick. It goes onto the shelf and it’s usually in there about a week,” says Hendrick. 

If the supply gets too low, Lee Memorial Health System can rely on the national blood exchange, but they would like to keep it local.

“We don’t like to import blood. We’re always encouraging the community to come to donate to keep our inventory up, so we don’t have to go out to find it,” says Hendrick.

Sherman has found an added bonus to giving.

“I’ll tell you the truth, it just gives you an hour where you’re not being interrupted by the phone,” says Sherman.

But the blood center would rather he had company.