'Blood can't wait' — Donors needed to avoid blood supply shortage

Melissa Bonniksen and Shelby Stiffler work with Bruce Schmidt as he gives blood in the Oklahoma Blood Institute bloodmobile on Friday. (Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

Oklahoma Blood Institute is asking anyone eligible to donate blood to schedule a donation, to keep the vital supply of blood flowing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jessy Dershem, executive director of the OBI Enid Donor Center, said the need for blood products keeps going, regardless of the pandemic.

“Blood can’t wait — this is literally our new theme through this trying and uncertain time,” Dershem said.

Dershem said the current blood supply in Oklahoma is sufficient, in part due to a decreased demand as hospitals have cut back on many non-time-sensitive procedures over the last week.

But, she said, if projections continue as they are now — with future donation appointments greatly reduced, and many blood drives cancelled — the state’s blood supply will be critically low in two weeks.

Oklahoma Blood Institute’s donors provide every drop of blood needed for patients in more than 160 hospitals statewide, according to an earlier OBI press release.

“We don’t need 200 people to come in today (at the Enid Donor Center),” Dershem said. What is needed, she said, is for people to sign up and donate at the usual, steady pace.

“Thousands of planned donations are at risk because of cancellations from coronavirus concerns,” she said. “It’s critically important for donors to continue coming to blood drives and donor centers for their regular donations.

Blood donation is a safe way people can help others in need during this crisis, Dershem said.

“If members of our community are looking for ways to help during these challenging times, blood donation is a safe and easy way to help your neighbors and ensure the health of our local blood supply,” she said. “We need the public’s help to avoid a blood supply crisis. Patients need blood every day for chemotherapy treatments, trauma situations, neonatal care and more.”

During the pandemic, OBI is taking extra precautions to protect donors and staff, including:

• All individuals entering a donor center or mobile blood drive will have their temperature taken. Also, all OBI staff, prior to starting their shift, will have their temperature taken.

• Donor beds are being spaced a minimum of 6 feet apart.

• Screening areas are being spaced a minimum of 6 feet apart.

Dershem stressed the donation process is safe and all necessary precautions are being taken by OBI staff.

According to information posted on the OBI website, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) reports no cases of COVID-19 transmitted through blood transfusion, and “respiratory viruses generally are not known to be transmitted by blood transfusion.”

The Enid Donor Center, 301 E. Cherokee, is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday; and on Sunday by appointment only.

OBI also has set up micro fixed-site blood drive locations in the area:

• Food Pyramid in Stillwater will be hosting a blood drive, 3-7 p.m. each Monday, starting March 30.

• Food Pyramid in Ponca City will be hosting a blood drive, 2-6 p.m. each Tuesday, starting March 31.

• United Grocery Store in Woodward will be hosting a blood drive, 3-7 p.m. each Thursday, starting April 2.

For a list of blood drives in the area, and to schedule donation appointments, visit https://obi.org, call (877) 340-8777, or in Enid call (580) 233-9323. Appointments are not required to donate.

“Blood can’t wait,” Dershem said. “But, together, with our faithful Oklahoma blood donors, we will get through this.”

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