During the busy holiday season between now and January 7, the Lee Memorial Blood Center is taking donations at eight special blood drives at its hospital locations in Lee County.
The blood drive theme is donating blood is the greatest gift of all.
"It only takes 30 minutes to donate one unit that can help save several people," said Nancy Hendrick, community relations coordinator with the Lee Memorial Blood Center. "We need 800 units of blood per week to sustain the health care needs at all of our hospitals. We are always looking for the more rare negative blood types O, A, B, AB. Not many people have it and are willing to share it."
Two of those eight holiday blood drives are at Cape Coral Hospital in the Auxiliary Meeting Room. Donations will be taken from 9:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 19, and from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 29.
"It's an annual event," said Hendrick. "A lot of people are on vacation, out of town, and businesses are shorthanded. It's hard to get people to donate during the holidays, but we encourage people to remember to help support our blood system. We always need blood donations."
It's not so much that the need for blood spikes to a higher level around the holidays, Hendrick added, but that fewer people think about donating because of other activities and responsibilities associated with the holidays.
Donors receive a long sleeve T-shirt, a hospital cafeteria meal ticket, coupons and snacks, and are entered into drawings for prizes, including a mystery resort weekend getaway and various gift cards.
"People like to get things," said Hendrick. "We encourage area businesses to provide giveaway items and gifts, and we also have gift drawings."
Blood donations with Lee Memorial Blood Center remain within the system at Cape Coral Hospital, Gulf Coast Medical Center, HealthPark Medical Center and Lee Memorial Hospital where the only Trauma Center in a five-county region is located.
Blood also sustains patients at the system's specialty facilities at Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida and The Rehabilitation Hospital as well as those receiving treatment at the Regional Cancer Center.
Holiday blood drives also are scheduled at the Lee Memorial Hospital auditorium on Friday, Dec. 13 (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) and Monday, Dec. 16 (8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.); at Gulf Coast Medical Center community room on Thursday, Jan. 2 (9 a.m.-6:30 p.m.) and Friday, Jan. 3 (7 a.m.-4 p.m.); as well as HealthPark Medical Center atrium on Monday, Jan. 6 (9:30 a.m.-7 p.m.) or Tuesday, Jan. 7 (7 a.m.-4 p.m.).
One benefit of donating blood is not well known to the community. Donors get a mini-physical at no cost. Blood centers check the donor for pulse rate, blood pressure, body temp, hemoglobin level, blood type and cholesterol level.
Donated blood can be separated into its components - platelets, plasma, red blood cells - thereby expanding the number of patients that one unit can benefit.
For more information about the holiday blood drives or donation in general call the Lee Memorial Blood Center at (239) 343-2333, or visit the website www.leememorial.org/bloodcenter.