OBI calls on areas unaffected by ice storm to donate blood amid emergency shortage

Sierra Rains
srains@ardmoreite.com

The Oklahoma Blood Institute is facing an emergency blood shortage and is calling on donors of all blood types to take about an hour of their time to give blood for Oklahomans in need. 

A rare ice storm hit the state earlier than usual this year, affecting a large portion of the metro area and leaving hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans without power. Donor centers also lost power — some for multiple days — and several individuals had to cancel appointments to give blood. 

“All of that culminated in really what we would term a blood emergency,” said Heather Browne, OBI marketing and media manager. The blood institute has been strained for the past eight months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent cancellations of drives. 

Browne said blood drives at high schools normally account for around 30% of the blood institute’s collections. “When we’re unable to host a good number of those drives, we’ve already reached a blood shortage,” Browne said. 

The inclement weather was a catalyst for a blood emergency with an already stressed blood supply. “This ice storm hitting early really threw everybody for a loop, and the fact that we were already strained because of COVID,” Browne said. 

The Oklahoma Blood Institute’s stock has reached a less-than-one-day supply. Typically, the blood institute relies on an average of 1,200 donors to maintain a three to five-day supply for local hospitals. “Being at a one-day supply is distressing for us and we definitely need donors of all blood types to come in if they’re eligible as soon as possible,” Browne said. 

The Oklahoma Blood Institute has donor centers state-wide, but the metro area typically produces the largest number of donors due to the sheer size of population. Browne said the blood institute is encouraging individuals in areas like Ardmore that were not as heavily affected by the ice storm to come out and donate. 

“The metro area kind of holds the heaviest number of donors, and so if that’s at a standstill we really need those areas that maybe weren’t as affected as badly to come out in force and give blood,” Browne said. “Our center in Northwest Oklahoma City didn’t have power for three days. My office still doesn’t have power, and that’s kind of near downtown.”

Donors help provide blood needed for patients in more than 160 hospitals, medical facilities and air ambulances statewide, and one donation can save up to three lives. 

“Someone needs blood every two seconds — people with cancer, children who may be suffering from leukemia, they need blood as their general treatment just to feel better,” Browne said. “If there’s a trauma, especially with the roads and unpredictable weather, traumas can happen at any time so we always need that reserve blood.”

Oklahomans ages 16 and older can donate blood. To schedule an appointment to give blood, call 1-877-340-8777 or visit obi.org to see a list of donor centers and mobile blood drives. Blood drives are being managed according to CDC safety recommendations. 

The need for convalescent plasma has also skyrocketed recently and all donations will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies to identify potential convalescent plasma donors. “Just the number of hospitalizations is through the roof right now and we’re seeing more and more requests for that product so we’re trying to meet those needs, as well as blood needs right now,” Browne said. 

Individuals can check the Oklahoma Blood Institute Facebook page for updates or visit obi’s website. “Hopefully we can get some donors and be able to get our way out of this,” Browne said.