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Winter weather prompts urgent call for blood donors

Sierra Rains
The Daily Ardmoreite
A unit of blood after donation.

Making an appointment to give blood has become more than just important this week, it’s an emergency. The Oklahoma Blood Institute is experiencing an emergency blood shortage due to persisting winter weather conditions, and is urging eligible donors to make appointments. 

With much of the state hit by large amounts of snow and long-lasting freezing temperatures, OBI Marketing and Media Manager Heather Browne said far less donors have been coming in than normal. 

“We depend on about 1,200 donors per day so right now we’re way down from that just due to weather conditions and people not being able to get out and about,” Browne said. “We definitely need people of all blood types to come in if they can get out and about safely.”

The Oklahoma Blood Institute relies on these donors to maintain a three to five-day supply of blood needed for patients at more than 160 hospitals, medical facilities and air ambulances statewide. However, the center has been down to a less-than-one-day supply ever since winter weather hit the state late last week. 

“Every two seconds somebody needs blood,” Browne said. “So we need to have a robust supply of blood on the shelves and be ready for our local hospital at any given moment, especially during these winter months when a trauma could happen, when a major accident could happen.”

Many cancer patients and individuals with transfusion dependent conditions also depend on a steady supply of blood, and one donation can save up to three lives. 

While calls for more donors have been effective, a second round of winter weather continues to present problems for the blood supply — which had already been strained for several months due to COVID-19. Browne said high schools account for 30% of the blood institute’s collections and closings due to COVID-19 or inclement weather also greatly impact the supply. 

“It’s been thing after thing. A year of COVID-19 put a strain on the blood supply and then the winter weather, and now another round of winter weather,” Browne said. “Anytime donors aren’t able to keep their regularly scheduled appointments or come in and donate blood we’re hit hard because our supply is affected.”

As of Tuesday, Browne said centers across the state remained unaffected by power outages. However, they have a plan if outages do occur. Browne said many centers have backup power supplies and individuals will be notified if the locations of mobile blood drives experience issues. 

“We will certainly let people know if the power outage does affect a center or a mobile blood drive,” Browne said. While there have been some cancellations, many of the blood institute’s partner organizations have worked to continue to hold blood drives amid the winter weather, and centers in Ardmore and Ada have remained open. 

“We’ve really not had that many cancelations — a couple in the Ardmore area, but we’ve been very lucky to be able to replace some of those drives,” Browne said. “Other partners have been able to step up and provide an area for us to do a blood drive, so that’s been really helpful.”

A list of mobile blood drives in your area can be found online at www.obi.org. Individuals ages 16 and older can scheduled an appointment to give blood by calling (877) 340-8777 or visiting OBI’s website. Donor centers in Ardmore and other areas will also be taking walk-ins. 

“We get concerned and we need to call out the alert and have donors come in,” Browne said. “You can donate blood at your nearest blood drive and we have blood donor centers in Ada and Ardmore, as well as numerous locations around the state.”