Every year for the last eight years, the Phillips family has held a blood drive to mark the anniversary of a haunting loss and help other families avoid tragedy.
Micheal “Pokey” Phillips, a former Ardmore High School student, served as an Army specialist and died Feb. 24, 2008, in Iraq. Since then, family, friends, veterans and community members come to an annual blood drive, usually held around the anniversary of Micheal’s death at The Shops at Ardmore. His mother, Angelia Phillips, said the tribute is a fitting one.
“Micheal was an avid blood donor all through high school and through the Army,” Phillips said. “He was all about taking care of other people and quite honestly, we don’t want any other family to have to go through what we’re going through.”
The Phillips family works with the Oklahoma Blood Institute in Ardmore to hold the drive. Twenty-six donors attended this year, though three couldn’t donate.
“It’s a little more than average for an event like this,” Phillips said.
According to OBI, one donation can potentially save three lives. Years after his death, Angelia said she found out that when Micheal was injured he was treated with 30 units of blood. She uses that number as the blood drive’s tentative goal each year in remembrance.
“We didn’t quite meet 30 today,” she said. “So, throughout the rest of the year, my children and I will donate to hit that 30.”
The drive brought Cheryl Key to the mall early, making her the first to donate. Later in the day, State Sen. Frank Simpson attended and donated as well.
“We’ve had quite a few repeat donors,” Phillips said. “There’s kids who grew up with Micheal here today, there are veterans that have been coming out since the beginning to support their fallen brother.”
“We’ve had people show up and say ‘you know, I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time, and I’m so glad you’re here.’ It made them pause their busy day.”
Phillips said in her time organizing the drive, she’s found there are still multiple misconceptions about donating blood that can dissuade people. For example, people on blood pressure medication are not barred from donating and teenagers can donate starting at 16 with a parent’s permission. Someone with tattoos can donate as well, so long as it’s been one year since they received their last tattoo, or they were tattooed by a licensed Oklahoma tattoo artist.
“I’ve had cancer and I give blood,” Phillips said. “Unfortunately, if you lived in Europe during the 80s you probably still can’t because they never figured out Mad Cow Disease.”
She said she advises donors to hydrate, eat well and plan ahead before donating.
OBI Mobile Supervisor Ryan Gilbert has worked this blood drive in previous years.
“It’s unique in that it’s friends and family,” Gilbert said. “We usually see the same people at this one.”
Gilbert said anyone who wants to hold a similar event can contact the Ardmore OBI office. Depending on their location, they may need to work with an office in a different city.
“They would get you to the right person,” Gilbert said. “We have quite a few that are like this, not so much in the Ardmore area, but we do get quite a few.”