Confusion among Tucson blood donors after Orlando attack

Confusion among Tucson blood donors after Orlando attack

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The American Red Cross is clearing up confusion for blood donors in Tucson who wish to assist the Orlando terror attack victims.  The organizations says our local blood banks have served a lot of walk-in donors since the mass shooting in Florida.

Spokeswoman Tammy Kikuchi Nakamura tells Tucson News Now the priority is local first, meaning donations at local blood banks are used to fulfill local need.

Surplus donations are then sent to the next area of priority. There is no way for donors to know where their blood will be sent, but the American Red Cross uses a tracking system. If a donor provides an email address at the time of donating, they will receive an email identifying their blood type and informing the donor where their donation was used.

In a statement, the American Red Cross says it does not typically serve hospitals in the Orlando area, the Red Cross has provided 30 units of type O negative blood to support Florida hospitals in response to the Orlando shooting. The organizations stands ready to provide additional blood and blood products as needed.

Employees at the Foothills Mall location said by early afternoon they had helped about a dozen walk-ins.  Some donors were at the location Monday for a regular appointment while others said the mass shooting in Orlando reminded them of the importance of donating.

"It's very inspiring.  It's a very good thing to see people come out in a time of need," says donor Michael Francis who had not donated blood in years.

"A lot of people never wanted to give blood or were afraid to," says donor Allan Tractenberg.  "They'll find that this it is really easy, that this doesn't hurt."

The Red Cross is hoping recent walk-ins turn into regular donors.  The organization is encouraging potential donors use the Rapid Pass system.  It allows donors to answer health questions online so they can be helped faster when they show up for their appointment.

There is also confusion about eligibility requirements. False reports over the weekend insisted restrictions on when gay men can donate were lifted.

Last year health officials lifted the lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. The new restrictions say gay men can donate if they have not had sex with another man in a year.

All blood donations are screened for HIV. There is a roughly 10-day window between initial infection and when the virus can be detected in the bloodstream.

The American Red Cross says blood and platelet donations are being distributed to hospitals as quickly as they come in, so having a large supply is essential before an emergency like the Orlando terror attack.

Click here to find a donation site near you or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

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