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Oklahoma blood recipients gather to thank their donors

Oklahoma City — When Joy Griffin's twin sons were born three months early, their tiny bodies weren't yet capable of making the red blood cells that whisk oxygen to vital organs.

Wyatt and Grady, now 15 months, received several blood transfusions while staying in a neonatal intensive care unit. Both boys are now healthy and catching up on their developmental milestones, but Griffin knows their family could be different if blood hadn't been available when they needed it.

While she doesn't know the individuals whose blood helped the twins, she made the drive from Enid to Oklahoma City on Thursday to join other recipient families in giving thanks.

Her family was one of about a dozen that visited the Oklahoma Blood Institute to help announce an online portal where people who receive blood or their loved ones can send a short message to the donors who supplied it. Griffin said she would have liked to thank the donors personally, if the portal had been available when her sons received blood.

“I love it, because I think it helps people realize donating blood isn't just an obligation,” she said. “It is life-changing.”

John Armitage, president and CEO of OBI, said the website,, doesn't reveal any information about recipients. Donors can't contact recipients, so it's essentially a “one-way social media platform” where recipients can share messages, photos and short videos, he said.

Any blood donation organization could use the website, because they all are part of the same tracking system, said Tara Scott, executive director of community relations and donor recruitment at OBI.

OBI tested it with a handful of hospitals first, and hundreds of patients have chosen to participate, Armitage said. They've found that donors who received a message were more likely to schedule an appointment to donate again than those who only got reminders about blood drives, and OBI hopes the messages will continue to motivate donors to give more regularly, he said.

“We know it's having an emotional pull, to get those donors to make an appointment,” he said. “The supply is always needing replenishment, especially this time of year.”

Steve Munday, who has donated 11 gallons of blood over about 40 years, said he's gotten two thank-you messages since the pilot program rolled out. He said it didn't change his behavior, since he already donates as often as medical guidelines allow, but he was moved to hear from someone who benefited from his donations.

“I was quite humbled. Actually, I was brought to tears,” he said.

He also got a personal thank-you on Thursday from Ashley Sanchez, of Chickasha, who attended with her son, Denton Padgett, 5. Denton needed at least 75 units of platelets, or red blood cells, while undergoing chemotherapy, Sanchez said. While she doesn't know who gave Denton blood, she tries to thank blood donors for their gift however she can.

“Coming and being a face to thank the public is the least that we can do, to let them know we're thankful and he's still here because of them,” she said.

Meg Wingerter

Meg Wingerter has covered health at The Oklahoman since July 2017. Previously, she lived in Topeka, Kansas, and worked at Kansas News Service and The Topeka Capital-Journal, where she earned awards for business coverage. She graduated from... Read more ›