LEESBURG, Fla. – More than 50 years ago a national proclamation was signed designating January as ‘National Blood Donor Awareness Month.’
January is typically a period of critical blood shortage as people tend to stop donating during the holidays, and when they get sick during cold and flu season.
According to OneBlood, one donation of whole blood has the potential to save up to three lives, but for one Lake County woman, that number could be well over a thousand.
That’s because 45-year-old Louise Watkins has made nearly 600 platelet and whole blood donations, visiting the Leesburg OneBlood center every other week.
That’s more than 70 gallons of life-saving blood. She said it’s two special people in her life motivating her to keep returning.
“I had a childhood friend pass away from cancer. His name was Junior. This is in honor of him,” said Watkins. “My father has cancer and had to go through treatment, so I know he’s also benefitted from blood and platelet donations. Not only does it make me want to do it as often as possible, but also makes me want to put the message out there and try to get more people like me to donate more often or as often as they feel comfortable with.”
Watkins is spreading the message by posting photos and videos to social media, encouraging others to help save lives by donating blood.
“The need is always there,” said Watkins.
Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. is receiving a blood transfusion, according to OneBlood, a Florida nonprofit facilitating blood and platelet donations that are distributed to hospitals across the country.
“There’s so many people in our community who need blood: premature babies, cancer patients, sickle cell patients, trauma patients, transplant patients, the list goes on and on. It’s not just in emergency situations, it’s people who depend on regular blood donations to live. You’re helping save people’s family members and it could be you one day and you want it to be there,” said Susan Forbes, Senior VP of Corporate Communications at OneBlood.
Forbes said it’s type O blood that’s most in demand, calling for more diversity in donors to help with blood disorders more common in minorities like sickle cell.
“Less than five percent of African Americans donate blood and that makes it challenging to find these matches for these patients,” said Forbes.
Watkins’ most recent whole blood donation process took about 30 minutes. Her donated blood will be tested, processed and on the way to a hospital in two to three days. She won’t know exactly who her life-saving blood will be helping and she doesn’t care. She said she’ll return in a couple of weeks to donate again.
“It makes me happy and gives me a sense of accomplishment and pride that I can do this. It’s just something so simple and so easy,” said Watkins. “I just know that it’s helping someone and that’s all I need to know.”
Watkins said donating whole blood can take about 30 minutes while donating platelets can go from an hour to two hours.
Click HERE to find a OneBlood donation center near you.