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'We're not crying wolf.' Nashville, nation facing historic blood shortage as country reopens

Tennessee down 2,700 pints a month
Virus Outbreak Florida
Posted at 5:51 PM, Jul 07, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Blood banks are in desperate need of blood products.

Even Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the only Level One trauma center in Middle Tennessee, is feeling the pinch.

"One of our advisory boards, the AABB, put out a statement for how severe it is," said Dr. Jennifer Andrews, the medical director of the hospital's blood bank. "This is the worst it's ever been."

Vanderbilt's three-day supply of blood doesn't currently worry doctors, but their supplier, The American Red Cross, could not send them extra blood if they asked.

"Sometimes they would call a friend and [say] Vanderbilt needs extra blood products, can you send us some to give them? And there's not any to give us," Dr. Andrews said.

The American Red Cross says Tennessee is currently short about 2,700 pints of blood a month.

Why? People are donating less while more people are trying to reschedule elective surgeries that got canceled last year.

The Vanderbilt Blood Bank director is ready if they have to start rationing.

"I have never had to come up with a document, which I did right at the beginning of the pandemic, with a lot of help across the medical center, with how we would prioritize patients receiving blood products," she said.

If the supply level drops more, Dr. Andrews has a patient prioritization system that outlines what a Vanderbilt patient needs to be experiencing to receive blood products.

Meanwhile, the medical community at Vanderbilt is donating as much as they can to fill the fridges.

"In March 2020, we partnered with the American Red Cross and we increased our blood donation drives here at Vanderbilt from once a week, maybe sometimes once a month, to two to three times per week. We actually have increased the amount of blood we're collecting here at Vanderbilt by 600 times when you compare calendar year 2020 to calendar year 2019, and the trend has continued here into 2021. We're actually really proud of our community here," she said.

While some hospitals around the country have delayed elective surgeries, Vanderbilt has not had to delay any surgeries or transfusions yet.