December 17, 2021

Family knows firsthand the critical need for blood donations

Vanderbilt cancer patient Brody Cramer knows all too well how crucial blood donations are. Since he was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year he has needed 23 units of red blood cells and 16 units of platelets.

Brody Cramer and his mother, Christina, speak at the American Red Cross about the need for blood donors.

by Jessica Pasley

Brody Cramer, 13, was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in February.

In the 10 months since then he has needed 23 units of red blood cells and 16 units of platelets.

The ongoing blood shortage impacting Vanderbilt University Medical Center and other hospitals worries his mother, Christina Cramer.

“It’s imperative that we help get the word out that blood donors are desperately needed,” Cramer said during a press conference held at the American Red Cross on Thursday. “It’s lifesaving for Brody and so many others going through cancer treatments. While everyone gives gifts to family and friends, please remember this gift of life as well. We are so thankful for those who continue to donate. Our entire family donates to give back.

“Brody’s blood type is rare, so it is doubly concerning for us and I am sure many others who require frequent transfusions. It is scary that blood products are at such a low level,” she said.

The American Red Cross, along with VUMC, held the press conference to raise awareness about the critical need for blood donors.

According to the American Red Cross, blood products have a short shelf life and require constant replenishing.

More than 16 million units of blood and blood products are transfused annually, with more than 45,000 units needed daily in the United States.

“The blood supply is at a historic low,” said Pampee Young, MD, chief medical officer, American Red Cross. “If we do not take actions to stabilize the blood supply, there is real danger of patients postponing or not receiving the medical care they need due to lack of blood availability.”

Young said the need is greater during the winter months as donor turnout is lower due to travel, holiday plans, seasonal illnesses and inclement weather.

The local Red Cross blood bank currently has about two days of blood supply — a typical supply is four to five days.

Blood donations can take up to three days to be processed and made available for patients, further impacting the need to maintain a stable blood product supply.

“VUMC needs a constant supply of blood to take care of our patients, including solid organ transplant recipients, our patients with cancer, mothers delivering babies who have unexpected hemorrhages, and, of course, as we serve the community as its only level I trauma center,” said Jennifer Andrews, MD, MSc, associate professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology (Division of Transfusion Medicine) and Pediatrics (Division of Hematology/Oncology) and medical director of the Blood Bank.

Cramer said the highlight of their visit to the Red Cross headquarters was a tour, which gave Brody an opportunity to personally thank donors. The family is working with the Red Cross to host a blood drive in its Murfreesboro neighborhood. The community has more than 800 homes.

Brody, his mother and Andrews received American Red Cross Blood Donor Recruiter medals for their dedication to raising awareness about the need for donors during the event.

The American Red Cross holds frequent blood drives on VUMC’s 21st Avenue and One Hundred Oaks campuses. Employees and members of the public are encouraged to donate. You can sign up for an upcoming Red Cross blood drive and donate at a time convenient with your schedule at