Overwhelmed by people wanting to donate blood to victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, OneBlood asked donors to stop coming Sunday and schedule appointments over the next few days.
“I’ve been here 13 years and never seen a response like this,” said Pat Michaels, a spokesman for OneBlood, as he revealed the blood centers were at capacity with walk-up donors.
“The sentiment is understood and appreciated, but it’s a little too much, too soon,” he said.
But the supply will need to be replenished, Michaels said.
Hundreds of Central Floridians lined up Sunday morning at the blood center on West Michigan Avenue after learning about the shooting spree.
OneBlood had put out a call for the donations and still need types O negative, O positive and AB plasma. The agency said the blood donations were needed to aid the wounded.
“You want to do something to help,” said Frank Tiffany, 69, of Winter Garden, who was waiting midway through a line that spilled out the door, through the parking lot and down West Michigan Avenue. “It’s hard to believe …You have to do something to help. You can’t stay home.”
For Becky Orero, it was more personal.
“We have to be here for our community. I made sure that I came down her so our friends and family can make it out okay,” said Orero, who worked at the nightclub for five years.
She fought off tears thinking of the victims.
Grace Howard, 24, also lined up to give blood after learning of the tragedy.
“It’s pretty amazing to see the community support,” said Howard, a digital editor at Bonnier Corp. in Winter Park. “This is my city. It’s the City Beautiful … What else can I do? This is a huge tragedy for our city.”
Micah James said he had never been to the club, but that wasn’t important.
“We’re all made of the same stuff, flesh and bone and blood,” he said.
Erin Cook said she was moved to give blood after seeing grief in the face of a mother waiting to hear from her son, who was at the nightclub. The woman had said her son’s partner was wounded but alive.
“As a mom, seeing her, it just pulled at my heart. I had to do something,” Cook said.
From his military training, Ricardo Vasquez, 26, said he knew blood donations were needed.
“I wanted, as best as I could, help out without getting in the way,” he said.
In December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration relaxed a lifetime ban that had forbid gay and bisexual men from donating blood. That ban stemmed from the early days of the AIDS epidemic to guard against the transmission of the AIDS virus through a medical blood transfusion.
Despite the FDA’s action, OneBlood has not yet completed an update of its policies.
Donors are evaluated to determine eligibility to give blood, and gay and bisexual men who acknowledge they have previously been sexually active cannot donate. Other donors could be turned away, for instance, if they have been in a country where they were exposed to risk of infection for malaria, the zika virus and other pathogens that could be transmitted through transfusion.
Donors should be healthy, age 16 or older and weigh at least 100 pounds.
To find a donation center or Big Red Bus near you visit www.oneblood.org or call 1.888.9Donate.