On a rainy Monday, Corbin Stevens was operating the blood mobile across the street from Turlington Plaza at UF. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., he and his co-worker drew blood from only seven donors.
“Most blood drives, there is about a dozen students, but today with the rain we didn’t get much,” Stevens said. “When it rains they are more likely to go inside the buildings, wait for it to stop raining and go home as fast as they can.”
LifeSouth Community Blood Centers currently have less than a two-day supply of blood on their shelves. They are in need of all blood types, especially O-negative, the universal type.
“If someone has never donated before, this is a really good time to begin,” said Laura Bialeck, district community development coordinator for LifeSouth. “We want to make sure there is a safe blood supply for your family and friends. It only takes 30 minutes, and you can save up to three lives with each donation.”
When a donor gives blood, it is separated into three parts: red blood cells, platelets and plasma. It is then given to hospitals for the patients.
Red blood cells are most commonly used for patients who are anemic or have lost a lot of blood. Platelets can be used to prevent blood clotting in cancer patients going through chemotherapy, Bialeck said.
The donor is given a recognition item after they donate, usually a T-shirt. Depending on the time of year, other gifts are also handed out, Stevens said. Along with a gift, donors receive a mini-physical, a snack and a drink.
Summer months are always slower due to school breaks and the weather, but this summer has been a challenge, she said. UF, Santa Fe College and all of the Gainesville high schools make up 25 percent of the donor population.
Depending mostly on college students can make it difficult for LifeSouth to stay on top of their supply.
“A lot of students also don’t donate during exams, just because they are focusing and they don’t want to have a reaction,” Stevens said.
However, putting up signs stating that they are in a state of emergency tends to help.
“A lot of times people will come up and say, ‘I’m only donating because the sign says you’re in an emergency need,’” he said.
Aside from the mobile locations, there are two centers in Gainesville where people can donate, located at 1221 NW 13th St. and 4039 W. Newberry Road.
Donors must bring a photo ID, be at least 17 years old or 16 with parental permission and weigh 110 pounds or more for safety reasons. If donors also provide the blood center with their email address, they will receive their lab results and blood type within 24 to 48 hours, Bialeck said.
If someone is unable to donate, they can let their friends and family know about the shortage and encourage them to donate, she said.
“If you plan on donating, bring a friend, eat some food and just know that the worst thing on the bus is anxiety, not a needle,” Stevens said.