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First Coast mother celebrates gift of life by hosting blood drive during national blood crisis

“Had people not donated and taken time out of their schedule, then I wouldn't be here today to celebrate [my daughter's] second birthday," Melissa Brusoe said.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A life together – that will never be taken for granted.

“It's been a huge blessing to see her grow," Melissa Brusoe said while holding her daughter, Eliyanah Brusoe, in her arms. "When the day being wheeled back, being told possible abruption... and not knowing how things were gonna turn out.”

Two years ago, while 28 weeks pregnant, Brusoe was admitted to Orange Park Medical Center for bleeding, which led to hemorrhaging.

“I end up receiving 33 units of blood to save my life," she explained. "Doctors and nurses worked tirelessly to make sure that I made it. It was touch and go. I actually coated on the table.”

Now, to celebrate Eliyanah’s second birthday, Brusoe is giving back – by hosting a LifeSouth Community Blood Drive outside the hospital.

The family also held a drive last year, and plan to make it an annual event.

“Words will never express how thankful we are. So, the least that we can do is to give back this way," Brusoe said.

And, their gift couldn’t come at a better time.

“[Winter] is always a difficult time of year for blood collection," Brite Whitaker, Lifesouth Community Blood Centers Director of Communications and Outreach said. "But, piling on COVID and Omicron, it is only exasperated that. And so, we're seeing a decline in donations, canceled blood drives, blood centers – along with every organization – are having staffing issues.“

It all has helped lead to the worst blood shortage in the United States in more than a decade, according to the American Red Cross.

In fact, for the very first time, the Red Cross has declared a national blood crisis.

“It's important to have a three-day supply available, and we're seeing that really drop in terms of like critical blood types, like O- and A-," Whitaker explained.

She says the community blood supplier has been able to keep up with the needs of the hospitals it serves in Florida and Georgia. However, if supplies stay this low, it could potentially affect elective surgeries or treatment to patients.

Brusoe says you can save a life, just like hers, by donating blood.

“Had people not donated and taken time out of their schedule, then I wouldn't be here today to celebrate [Eliyanah’s] second birthday and so many other milestones in my family since that day, two years ago," she said.

If you missed their blood drive today, the Brusoe family is holding another one Friday, Jan. 14, at Orange Park Medical Center's Rehab Center, located at 1883 Kingsley Ave, Orange Park, FL 32073, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

To find a LifeSouth BloodMobile blood drive or donor center near you, visit the blood suppliers website. You can also make an appointment online.

On First Coast News at 11 p.m. Friday, the On Your Side team continues looking into the national blood crisis, and will be highlighting a local veteran who has donated more than 100 gallons of blood.