LifeSouth's annual summer blood drive begins this week


Krystal Tabah, a donor specialist with LifeSouth Community Blood Centers, prepares Anthony King for a blood donation during the LifeSouth Bleed-athon at Gainesville Health and Fitness Center Wednesday. At far left is blood donor Dalila Otero.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 3:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 3:00 p.m.

Blood donations are one gift you hope never to receive.

But when Daniel Odom, a fitness counselor at Gainesville Health & Fitness, was a Navy corpsman, he learned first-hand that blood donations save lives — including his own. Ever since, he has been an avid donor — so much so that he couldn't donate to LifeSouth on Wednesday morning because he hadn't quite reached the necessary eight-week gap between donations.

LifeSouth donor recruiter Leif Stringer told Odom that by Sunday, he could donate — at Best Buy in Gainesville, where LifeSouth's iconic red, white and blue bus will be parked.

This week marks the start of LifeSouth's inaugural "Bleed-a-thon," a two-week drive to ramp up blood donations during the slowdown in donations that occurs every summer — especially at this time, during the break between summer sessions at the University of Florida, said Clay Gibbons, the district community development coordinator at LifeSouth in Gainesville.

Gibbons added that there's about a 9 percent decrease between May and August, primarily because of the absence of the large student population. During the year, LifeSouth typically gets 14 donations per day on campus, which drops to nine donations during the summer.

The blood center also is running an "apartment challenge" at various apartment complexes around town.

During the Bleed-a-thon, LifeSouth aims to collect 2,013 donations — a "lofty goal," Gibbons said, but one that's reasonable to keep pace with the demand at local hospitals.

LifeSouth, which Gibbons calls a "steward" of the community's blood and a liaison between it and the hospitals, ideally has three to five days of blood of each of the four types (A, B, AB and O) ready to give, which drops to between one and four during the summer.

"We want to make sure that we have a fresh inventory because doctors want to use fresh blood," Gibbons said. "There's no break in the blood donation world."

Despite the summer lull, Gibbons said "Gainesville is a very loyal donor base. We have more donors per capita than any other center in the country."

Roughly 35 percent of the population is eligible to donate blood, and about 10 percent actually do, Gibbons said. You can start donating at age 16, and there's no age limit on donating. But if you've lived in a country where malaria is present, you have to wait 12 months before donating; and people who lived in most European countries for five years, or on a U.S. base in those countries for sixth months, starting in 1980 can't donate because of the risk of Mad Cow disease, a fatal brain disease that in humans is called Creutzfield-Jacob Disease and can be transmitted through blood transfusions.

LifeSouth now is pushing to recruit new donors and also increase the amount of donations of regular donors. You can donate as many as six times a year.

Mariah Jones, an instructor at Gainesville Health & Fitness, was giving her regular donation on Wednesday. "I've been donating for a while. I just heard it saves lives," she said. "I can spare a little blood if somebody needs it."

Odom became a dedicated donor during his time in the Navy.

"They called them ‘Vampire liberty' days. If you gave blood, you had the rest of the day off," Odom said. "Then I realized (donating) was painless and easy. I believe a little bit in Karma. What comes around goes around, and I actually did benefit from a blood donation."

Stringer, whose job is to snag potential donors at the doorway, said the gym is one of the easier places to find new recruits.

"This is a health community," Gibbons said. "They realize (donating) is about health."

To find out where you can donate blood during the Bleed-a-thon, go to www.lifesouth.org and search under the Blood Mobile locator; or call 334-1000.

Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119 or kristine.crane@gvillesun.com

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