On the 10th anniversary of a life-changing tragedy, the Phillips family was hard at work.
For the past six years, they’ve worked with Oklahoma Blood Institute to hold a blood drive honoring the memory of Micheal “Pokey” Phillips, first at Ardmore High School, now at The Shops at Ardmore. Micheal, an Army Specialist, died February 24, 2007 while serving in Iraq. His mother, Angela Phillips, said the annual drive is a way to keep others from experiencing the same pain and loss.
“For every unit of blood donated, three lives can be saved,” Phillips said. “If we can keep one family from having that empty chair at their table, that’s what we’re going to do. Micheal was all about making sure the people around him were happy, and this is one way to do that.”
Phillips said her son was an avid blood donor in life, and the blood drive seemed like a natural way to honor his memory by saving lives. Every year, the family strives to collect at least 30 units, to represent the 30 units of blood doctors used in their effort to save Micheal’s life.
“I believe in the philosophy of turning the poison into medicine,” Phillips said. “You can turn bad things into good things, or you can let them continue to be bad things, fester and destroy you.”
Phillips said she was inspired after reading about the Muslims for Life campaign, an annual series of blood drives held at mosques nationwide to honor the victims of 9/11.
“They were protesting the taking of life by donating blood and giving life,” Phillips said. “I thought that was a wonderful thing.”
This year’s drive happened to coincide with a statewide shortage of donated blood, due to a combination of the flu and icy weather.
“Even if you don’t want to do it for Micheal, even if you can’t come out today, the need for blood is just incredible,” Phillips said. “We really need as many donors as we can get.”
Micheal grew up in Ardmore along with his siblings and graduated from Ardmore High School in 2006. Some donors were close friends who’d been donating since the drive began. Others were at the mall by chance, but stopped in after hearing the words “it’s for Pokey.”
“We have a lot of regulars,” Phillips said. “A lot of the kids who went to school with Micheal and his siblings are regular donors.”
Others were from more far-flung locations. Two people who’d served with Micheal in Iraq flew in from Georgia and Washington respectively for the blood drive.