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More ethnicities urged to donate blood, supply needs to match patient population

The need for people to donate blood is at an all-time high
The need for people to donate blood is at an all-time high 01:48

MIAMI - The need for people to donate blood is dire and even more so for those who suffer from diseases like sickle cell.

Lia Ottinot was diagnosed when she was three months old. At any point, she becomes overcome with agonizing aches.

"Sometimes it causes great pain and I can't go to class. I can't go to school," she said.

Sickle cell disease is a common blood disorder where red blood cells are distorted. They're not round like normal cells and they sometimes block blood vessels. For Ottinot, her pain travels from her spine to her legs, her chest, and her ribs.

That pain stops her from being able to do everyday activities that most kids get to enjoy like sports. When she's in crisis, she sometimes ends up in the hospital.

For an entire year, Ottinot had to have several blood transfusions. For perspective, a year's worth of blood is a lot but there isn't enough to go around. The Red Cross reports that blood donations have dropped 40 percent to the lowest levels seen in 20 years.

Dr. Sarah LaRosa, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at HCA Florida University Hospital, says the blood shortage is concerning, especially for those with diseases like sickle cell.

"That concerns me, especially looking for the proper blood to match with other people," she said.

LaRosa said sickle cell patients need genetically similar blood from people of the same ethnicity. Susan Forbes, Senior Communications at OneBlood, echoed that sentiment.

"We need all ethnicities to be donating blood. We live in a diverse nation, and we need the blood supply to match the patient population," she said.

Blood donations are life-changing.

"We don't know what the end result would've been if I did not have a bag of blood," said Ottinot.

At 20 years old she learned to manage her pain and was even able to swim in high school. Now, she hopes other Black and brown people donate blood so that others like her can have a chance to enjoy life despite their circumstances.

"It's just a simple thing, if you can give blood, you're already supporting your community," she said.

OneBlood says not enough African Americans donate blood. They represent only 5 percent of those who give blood.

CBS News Miami is teaming up with HCA Florida Healthcare and OneBlood to help save lives.

There will be two blood drives on Thursday, February 29th, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

One will be held at HCA Florida Westside Hospital, at 8201 W Broward Boulevard in Plantation. The other will be at HCA Florida Aventura Hospital, at 20900 Biscayne Boulevard.

All donors will receive a OneBlood long-sleeved T-shirt, a $20 eGift card, and a wellness checkup.    

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