JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The need for a ready blood supply is incredibly important. An example of a mass need was seen on June 12 last year when the Pulse nightclub tragedy unfolded in Orlando.
Many victims were rushed to the hospital, requiring life-saving blood transfusions.
OneBlood collected 28,000 pints of blood in just seven days last year following the shooting at Pulse. On a normal week, the organization takes in just 18,000.
Kelsey Deese was among those who donated in the aftermath of the Pulse shooting. Deese grew up in Orlando and has connections with the LGBT community in the city.
“I know a lot of people who are hurting still from it,” Deese said.
One year later, Kelsey is still donating regularly. One in three who gave blood in the wake of the tragedy were first time donors, OneBlood said, and 75 percent of them haven’t come back to donate again.
“You should come back, because you helped save a life a year ago, and you can continue to do that every 56 days when you're eligible to donate blood,” OneBlood's Susan Forbes said.
The blood used to save Pulse victims didn’t come from the donations following the shooting. It came from those who donated in the days leading up to the tragedy.
That’s why OneBlood officials said it’s so important to donate year-round.
“Blood has to be there in advance of it ever being needed, and that's why these blood donors really are the first, first responders,” Forbes said.
Deese said that last year’s tragedy was the wake-up call she needed to become a regular donor. She hopes others got the message, too.
“I don't think we need to wait for tragedies to happen to do something good,” Deese said. “I think it's sad that sometimes that's what it takes to get someone in the doors.”
The one-time donations following the shooting didn’t go to waste. They were being used in hospitals in a matter of days and were credited with saving hundreds if not thousands of lives.
Pulse remembrance blood drive
In remembrance of the Pulse shooting, OneBlood is hosting blood drives that will take place through Monday at all OneBlood donor centers.
All donors will receive a “Still Strong, Still United, Still One” T-shirt.
Mark LaMontagne has AB+ blood type, which is one of the rarest of all the blood types. He said giving often is a part of his life now, ever since he learned how big of a need his blood type is.
“It's a wonderful opportunity to help someone out. It makes me feel good, you know?” LaMontagne said.
LaMontagne said he got the rare chance to meet a child needing his platelet type.
“It was a toddler. It was a heart procedure, and I said, ‘Well, you can have mine if you want?’ and she (her mother) started crying,” LaMontagne said. “It was very rare you get to see the recipient. It was quite a moment and that just really drove it home how important it is (to donate blood).”
Giving is a part of his normal routine because he knows if an emergency happens they will need what he has, much like the tragedy last year at the Pulse nightclub.
“If you donate the day of or right after, a lot of times it's a little bit late for the immediate need,” LaMontagne said. “I encourage people if you're able to become a donor, you're providing a service to people that desperately need what you can give. Especially when something like that occurs.”
LaMontagne said even for those who have never given blood, it's something everyone should try because you never know when someone you know could be the one in need.
“For those that are afraid of it, just try it out, and try to convince yourself, even if it hurts for a second, there is no harm taking place,” LaMontagne said.
O negative blood is the highest in demand because anyone can receive that type of blood. Often, it’s the blood type that's given in an emergency.
Generally healthy people age 16 or older and who weigh at least 110 pounds can donate.
Click here to learn more about OneBlood and donation locations.