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Love County first responders call on public to 'be heroes,' donate blood Saturday

Sierra Rains
The Daily Ardmoreite
Oklahoma Blood Institute staff at the Ardmore location work to cleanse the building amid COVID-19 concerns. OBI has implemented extra cleaning protocols at all donor locations and is urging individuals to donate blood amid a blood shortage caused by the pandemic.

Love County firefighters and police will once again be competing to bring in the largest amount of blood donors this weekend. The annual blood drive holds even more importance this year as the pandemic has slowed blood donations, resulting in a shortage of blood units. 

The Love County Boots vs. Badges Blood Drive will be held from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 22 in the Love County Community Hospital community room. The Love County Sheriff’s Office, Marietta Police Department and Love County fire departments have all traditionally participated in the drive, with the firefighters bringing in the most donors last year at a total of 37 donors

Love County Emergency Management Director Ashleigh Gillham said the Boots vs. Badges Blood Drive has always brought in the most donors compared to other blood drives held in the county. Normally, the agencies strive to bring in at least 20 donors per agency, but any amount helps. 

“Sometimes we get more than that and sometimes we get less than that, but every person can count,” Gillham said. “So whether we get below our goal or above it, it’s always a big success.”

The Oklahoma Blood Institute depends on at least 1,200 donors per day to supply the inventory needed for patients in more than 160 hospitals, medical facilities and air ambulances statewide. OBI Marketing and Media Manager Heather Browne said blood is only shelf stable for around 42 days and donors are needed everyday to help maintain the supply for individuals with life threatening diseases.

The pandemic, however, has led to a dwindling blood supply due to cancellations and individuals becoming more wary of donating blood in public spaces. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic led to a record number of blood drive cancellations in recent months,” said John Armitage, M.D., president and CEO of Oklahoma Blood Institute, in a July 17 press release. “Because the need for blood is constant, and increases during the summer, local patients are counting on our heroic donors more than ever.”

Browne said it is completely safe for individuals to donate blood and enhanced cleaning practices have been implemented at all donor centers and drive locations. Donor centers and mobile blood drives have also been adapted to allow for social distancing.

All phlebotomy staff and donors are required to wear masks and will have their temperatures taken before entering the facilities. Blood donation typically takes only about an hour, and one donation saves up to three lives.

Every donor at the Boots vs. Badges Blood Drive will be able to receive a free COVID-19 antibody test. If their test shows a previous infection, they will have the option of donating their plasma to be used as convalescent plasma treatment in seriously ill patients with COVID-19.

According to OBI, the need for convalescent plasma in Oklahoma increased by 700% in July, with the demand regularly greater than collections. A single plasma donation can provide plasma for up to four COVID-19 patients 

Gillham said donors will be asked to sign a sheet when they come in to show their support for either the firefighters or Love County law enforcement. “At the end of it, whoever has the most votes or most people signed up under them wins,” she said. 

Donors will also receive a free t-shirt and their choice of tickets to either Frontier City, the Science Museum in Oklahoma City or Safari Joe’s H20 Water Park. 

Walk-in’s will be allowed. However, Gillham said individuals are strongly encouraged to make an appointment before donating. To schedule an appointment, call the Oklahoma Blood Institute at 877-340-8777 or visit obi.org. 

“With the pandemic, there’s a blood shortage. People don’t think that they can give blood, but that’s not the case. Now is actually one of the most important times to give blood because people are still needing blood transfusions,” Gillham said. “There are ways to help and giving blood is a very important one.”