Blood donations pour in following Louisville mass shooting

Many first-time donors roll up their sleeves

By: - April 17, 2023 5:10 pm

A spokesman for the Kentucky Blood Center says “the most important thing with blood donation is that it needs to be on the shelves when the need arises. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Sarah Ladd)

LOUISVILLE — Hundreds of people who had never before donated blood stepped forward to help following a mass shooting in Louisville a week ago. 

The shooting left five dead, plus the shooter, whom police killed. Nine others were injured, including police officer Nickolas Wilt, who was working his fourth shift as a Louisville police officer when he responded to Old National Bank Monday morning. 

He was shot in the head as he “ran towards the gunfire,” Louisville Police said.

The police department tweeted Monday that a week after being shot, Wilt “remains in critical, but stable condition. The family sees and feels the love.” Of the remaining injured, one died after going to the hospital. The rest went home. 

Louisville medical and political leaders put out a call for blood donations after UofL Hospital staff used 170 units of blood to treat those injured in the shooting. 

That much blood was more than the hospital’s capacity, chief medical officer Dr. Jason Smith previously said. The American Red Cross sent in more. 

In the days following, appointments filled quickly around Louisville. 

“Following these tragedies, the Red Cross has received a tremendous outpouring of support as people seek to roll up a sleeve,” said Remy Kennedy, Red Cross Regional Communications Manager. 

However: “A number of factors help determine donor turnout, including news coverage, drive locations and promotions, so it is difficult to attribute an increase to any single factor,” Kennedy said, adding that people should continue to donate in the weeks and months ahead. 

In the five days after the shooting, the Kentucky Blood Center saw more donors step forward — especially in Louisville — than the two weeks prior to the mass shooting, according to spokesperson Eric Lindsey. 

And a lot of those who signed up were first-time givers. 

From April 10 to April 15, for example, 1,725 people registered to give blood. Of those, 439 were first-time donors. 

That was an increase from 1,567 registrations during April 3-8 with 270 first time donors. There were 1,567 registrations from March 27 to April 1 with 333 first time donors. 

A mobile blood drive in Louisville that incentivized donors with free tickets to a Louisville City FC game, filled. The drive added a second bus “to assist with the outpouring of support,” said Lindsey. 

Of the 66 people who registered to donate as part of that drive, Lindsey said, 51 were first-time donors. That’s a “really encouraging” metric. 

A LaGrange first responder drive to honor of Officer Wilt also reached capacity and had to turn some donors away. That location will likely have another drive this week open to the community, Lindsey said. Of the 35 registered for that drive, 22 were first-time donors, he said. 

It’s important for people with all blood types to keep giving, he said. 

The American Red Cross says red cells last for up to 42 days. Platelets are stored in room temperature for five days and plasma is frozen for up to one year. 

“Blood is a constant, everyday need because of all the uses,” said Lindsey. “In the wake of the mass shooting in Louisville, obviously people want to replenish the supply — which we are extremely grateful for — but the most important thing with blood donation is that it needs to be on the shelves when the need arises.” 

He added: “Whether it’s an unspeakable tragedy, a car accident, an organ transplant, a premature birth or treating a disease like cancer, the best way we can save lives is to make sure there is a healthy supply whenever that particular need arises.”

Follow these links to make an appointment to give blood near your ZIP code:


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Sarah Ladd
Sarah Ladd

Sarah Ladd is a Louisville-based journalist from West Kentucky who's covered everything from crime to higher education. She spent nearly two years on the metro breaking news desk at The Courier Journal. In 2020, she started reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and has covered health ever since. As the Kentucky Lantern's health reporter, she focuses on mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, COVID-19 and more.