Pulse tragedy hits close to home for team leaders, donors at OneBlood donation center

Posted at 4:27 PM, Jun 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-12 17:51:16-04

"I have been giving for a long time," said donor Stephen Palm.

It's part of his commitment to the community, donating blood, to date almost 50 gallons. But on this day for Palm, giving means even more.

"Often I break up when I am talking about it," said Palm.

A Red Cross volunteer, time can't shake memories. He arrived within hours after the shooting at the Pulse nightclub, and stayed in Orlando for days.

"What really helped for people who were part of the whole thing was that so many people there, cared," said Palm.

Palm did whatever he could. But, the moment he remembers the most is hugging a man minutes after learning he lost a loved one

"It's still so dreadful," said Palm.

Pedro Ortiz, the team leader at OneBlood, sadly shares the same feelings.

"You just feel this heavy weight come all over your body," said Ortiz.

His high school friend died that night at the hands of the shooter, Omar Mateen.

"Life is so short, it's so precious that you need to take advantage of it as much as you can," Ortiz said.

Ortiz has been at OneBlood for four and a half years. He said the Pulse tragedy has made him more passionate than ever about sharing the message: Donations save lives.

RELATED: Blood drives hosted by OneBlood to honor victims of Pulse shooting

"Some stranger is the one that is helping you out. You don't see who is getting it when you are in this chair but you know you are helping and that is what matters,' said Ortiz.

Palm's experience backs that up.

"They knew about the long lines of people coming in to all the places that collected blood. They knew people were there out of love and caring it helped everybody," said Palm.

OneBlood is open seven days a week and has numerous locations. For more information click here.