Earlier this year, Community Blood Centers of South Florida merged with two other blood centers in Florida to form OneBlood. The not-for-profit organization needs about one million donations each year to supply the 200 hospitals it now serves, spokesman Pat Michaels said.
Last year, John Sheppard of Fort Myers set the blood donation record at 315 pints to make The Guinness Book of World Records. Since then, the octogenarian has reached his own goal: 40 gallons.
Parrot Head Cathy Edwards organizes blood drives in her hometown of Atlanta, where the Parrot Heads were started in 1989. She now never misses the chance to donate in Key West.
To her, it’s personal. Five years ago, while attending the Meeting of the Minds convention, she began running a high fever. She was taken to the emergency room of the Lower Keys Medical Center, where doctors determined she had an infection from an earlier surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon. They also discovered she had two bleeding ulcers.
She would need blood, but there were no hospitals in the Keys with her blood type: B positive.
“Only 1 in 10 people have it,” she said. “But I told them I know where there is at least one person who has that type. And that person just gave blood this morning at the blood drive going on at the Casa Marina.”
Edwards woke up after surgery and saw a bag of blood hanging by her bed. Sure enough, she received two pints of B positive blood that came from her fellow Parrot Heads.
Edwards has three one-gallon donation pins and does her part to urge others to give. “I spend a lot of time telling people it doesn’t hurt,” she said. “I say if you are afraid of needles, just don’t look. It’s not a big deal. They give you something to drink. They put you on a nice recliner. They are real nice to you.”
And, she teases her fellow Parrot Heads: “They don’t check your BAC — blood alcohol content. Just your iron.”