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Blood donations high through week after Orlando shootings

TAMPA — Leonidas Foras figures it had been nine years since he last visited a blood donor center.

He went this week in response to the mass shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, because he "never felt more obligated to give blood."

Foras and his girlfriend, Ellen Pribil, both of Tampa, donated Sunday at OneBlood's clinic on Kennedy Boulevard.

They were among the thousands who donated blood this week at OneBlood clinics — sometimes tripling what the not-for-profit blood donation provider sees on a typical day, said Susan Forbes, OneBlood spokeswoman.

The organization has continued to see thousands of donations this week, even after blood levels rose back above crisis levels early Monday, Forbes said. An estimated 7,500 donors gave blood on Monday alone, she said.

By Friday, a sign was posted at the Kennedy Boulevard clinic, saying the center would only accept O-negative and A-negative donations, and that a "safe level of blood inventory" had been reached through June 21.

That stockpiling is a testament to local response to tragedy, Forbes said. It's a trend she hopes to see continue.

"We saw a tremendous response from our blood donors," Forbes said. "We are continuing to, even days later. People are still seeing how important blood donations are in our community."

Foras, 26, said he now places more importance on giving blood. Before this weekend, he couldn't even recall his own blood type.

But when he woke up Sunday morning, and saw the news out of Orlando, there was no doubt what he and Pribil would do.

"We felt morally obligated to at least help the cause," Foras said.

OneBlood saw a leap of almost 40 percent in first-time donors this week, Forbes said. Just as significant was a 70 percent increase in the number of O-negative blood donors who came to clinics this week.

"I've been here 7 1/2 years and I haven't seen that," Forbes said.

O-negative blood, which can be donated to anyone, is especially crucial when patients are hospitalized with injuries from trauma, Forbes said. Doctors often can't afford to spend time determining patients' blood type.

Some unsung heroes of the past week, Forbes said, were those donors who gave blood Thursday and Friday before the Orlando shooting.

She urged other donors to be vigilant about giving blood as often as they can so reserves are available in case of disaster. Blood is generally transfused within three days after a donation, she said.

"You can have the most talented doctor in the world," Forbes said, "but if they need blood for their patient and they don't have it, there's going to be a major problem."

It was clear to Foras that people in Tampa didn't want that to happen this weekend.

"The message was received and people were helping," he said. " ... Honestly, it was amazing to see."

Contact Samuel Howard at (813) 226-3373 or Follow @SamuelHHoward.

Blood donations high through week after Orlando shootings 06/17/16 [Last modified: Friday, June 17, 2016 10:09pm]
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