Chickasaw Nation and community answer call for blood donations with intertribal blood drive challenge
The Chickasaw Nation has joined in as First American tribes across Oklahoma compete to donate the most blood to the Oklahoma Blood Institute (OBI) – an effort meant to address a state and national blood shortage brought on by COVID-19.
The Chickasaw Nation challenges citizens, employees and community members to give blood to benefit hospitals, health clinics and patients across the state.
“There are not that many opportunities we have that we can say, ‘I stepped up and did something and it saved people’s lives.’ But when donating blood, every time you donate, you know you helped save the lives of three people,” Dr. Judy Goforth Parker said. “Sometimes people don’t realize how much of a difference it makes.”
Dr. Parker, health policy commissioner for the Chickasaw Nation, is a 20-year board member of OBI. She said the current daily requirement to meet blood bank needs is 1,200 donations – a number higher than she has previously seen in her time with OBI.
Blood donations bolster the supply of safe blood available for transfusions, which is vital for public health. Critically ill persons, cancer patients, premature babies, surgery patients and emergency room patients are primary recipients.
However, blood drive cancellations were a common sight early into the pandemic. The amount of blood OBI has been able to collect has dropped.
“With the pandemic, it did at least two things. We would normally have many blood drives indoors, but we no longer had access to those facilities. The other thing was, whenever elective surgeries began again, the need for blood increased. That had a negative impact on the blood supply,” explained Dr. Parker.
Thanks to the intertribal blood drive challenge, members of the community are coming together to meet these heightened needs.
After issuing a challenge to his own tribe, Chief Gary Batton of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma issued a blood drive challenge to other tribes in July.
"The state of Oklahoma is currently experiencing a critically low blood supply. One disaster could deplete the majority of the supply we have on hand. I challenge the Choctaw Nation and the other tribes to come together and make sure the state of Oklahoma and our tribal members have these much-needed, life-saving supplies," Chief Batton said.
This began the competition, which will continue until January 2022 and include 12 public blood drive events within the Chickasaw Nation.
The tribe collecting the most blood during the event will win a trophy, with plans to initiate similar challenges in the future.
To make sure donations count toward the tribal competition, participants should notify their phlebotomist for which tribe they are donating. Any member of the public can donate on behalf of a participating tribe if attending a blood drive event.
While supplies last, participants will be able to choose a free ticket to the Oklahoma Science Museum, Frontier City or Safari Joe’s H20.
Neither previously having the COVID-19 virus nor getting the COVID-19 vaccination affects one’s ability to give blood, as long as the one donating is symptom-free and feeling well on the day of donation. Donations are allowed every 56 days as long as normal iron levels are maintained.
An eligibility hotline is available at (888) 308-3924 for anyone questioning whether they can safely donate.
During the ongoing pandemic, blood donation mobile drives and centers follow a stricter set of protocols, including mask-wearing and extra sanitation of workstations.
To schedule an appointment, contact OBI at (877) 340-8777 or visit OBI.org.
A full list of upcoming blood drive events is available at YourBloodInstitute.org/Donor/Schedules/Geo. This includes events at donation centers as well as mobile drives.
“The Chickasaw Nation has always been a great partner with the Oklahoma Blood Institute. We have always used our facilities to be able to do blood drives. The need for blood did not stop and is beginning to rise,” Dr. Parker said. “We want to step up and see what we can do to help make Oklahoma safer.”