OKMULGEE, Oklahoma – Generosity, and charity fill the air around the holidays. Many will give back by donating money to charities, supporting toy drives, or giving food to shelters. Another way to give back to those in need is by donating blood.
Since the Covid-19 Pandemic began, donating at local blood drives has become more critical now than ever. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Head Start Program and the Oklahoma Blood Institute combated the need by holding a blood drive at the tribal complex on Dec. 20.
It was the first time the Head Start blood drive had been hosted since before the Covid-19 pandemic began. According to the Head Start Program’s Health & ERSA Specialist Dana Wells, blood drives held by the department used to be more commonplace.
“Before, I would have them about three times a year,” Wells said. “Normally, we would have them in our conference room.”
This year looked different with the OBI mobile donation truck. Donations being collected outside the Head Start center allowed fewer people to be in and out of the building.
Samira Winkler is a phlebotomist with OBI. Along with her colleagues, she collected donations in the mobile donations truck. Winkler said organizations like the OBI try to keep an ample blood supply. However, recent global health crises have made it challenging.
“We usually try to catch it before it gets too low,” Winkler said. “Around COVID, it was really bad.”
Among many other supply and demand issues, the pandemic had a crippling effect on the blood supply chain as well.
“It makes it harder for many people,” Winkler said. “If they have any symptoms, we can’t take them. It made it much harder for people to come out because everyone’s scared of getting sick, and many facilities couldn’t have us come in.”
The advantages of the mobile donation truck are numerous. The truck allows OBI to go to more rural areas to collect donations. OBI has few locations outside of metropolitan areas like Tulsa or Oklahoma City.
Blood drives across the state dwindled, resulting in fewer but larger-scale events. According to Winkler, this was still problematic because people feared the risk of COVID would be higher at a blood drive with more people in attendance. Regardless, there is always a need for blood.
Wells and Winkler have both donated blood in the past.
“I donate all the time, every time that I can, I donate,” Wells said.
For those donating blood for the first time, Winkler said it is essential to drink plenty of water, eat a big meal and bring a friend to help keep your mind at ease.
On the day of the blood drive, Wells wore one of the long-sleeve t-shirts given away to blood donors, a gray “Elf” themed shirt that read, “Don’t be a cotton-headed ninny muggins, give blood.” All donors received a long-sleeve t-shirt and a holiday ornament shaped like a blood drop. They also were entered in a drawing for a $250 Visa gift card.
If you would like to donate blood to OBI, Winkler said walk-ins are welcome. However, appointments are preferred.
The next Head Start blood drive will be scheduled for later in 2023. Wells said tribal employees are welcome to visit the Head Start center or to come out and read to Head Start students.