NewsLEX 18 In-Depth


Lexington gun violence exacerbates blood shortage

Posted at 7:05 PM, Oct 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-13 10:13:59-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Red Cross declared its first-ever crisis at the start of the year when blood donations were at an all-time low. Since then, the situation has not improved, leaving blood banks scrambling for new donors.

“There have been days during the pandemic where we’ve gotten very nervous,” said Mandy Brajuha, VP of external relations for Kentucky Blood Center.

Even as the pandemic wanes, a new fear is looming for Kentucky Blood Center and the 70 hospitals it supplies. An increase in violent crime across Lexington has a direct impact on the area’s blood supply.

“There are times when we find out there’s been a major trauma…we can go through 50 units of blood rather quickly,” explained Brajuha.

An uptick in gun violence boils down to tough decisions for those on the receiving end of the sirens, people like trauma surgeon Dr. Alexis Nickols.

“When we have trauma patients and shooting patients come in, especially if they need an operation, we have to be careful about how much blood products we are giving our patients, and that leads to some decision-making on my part,” explained Nickols. “We have to keep in mind that there’s a liver patient tomorrow that’s going to need blood or a heart operation that’s going to need blood, and I can't just indiscriminately pour blood into a trauma patient.”

Nickols said trauma and blood loss patients can become coagulopathic, meaning they experience excessive bleeding or blood clotting. In this case, a single patient in UK Healthcare’s trauma unit could empty an entire blood bank.

Nickols saw 20 gunshot victims in the just the last few weeks. For her and those on her team, that’s 20 tough decisions.

“We want to make sure they don’t have to make choices,” said Brajuha. “We want to make sure there’s an abundant amount of blood on the shelves so they can help everybody who needs blood.”

Kentucky Blood Center and UK Healthcare have two distinct calls to action. First, they simply ask that people make the call.

“People in the community need to know that they need to call 911 if they hear gunshots, call 911 immediately,” said Nickols. “I know a lot of the time people are concerned that they’ll bring unwanted attention to their community from the police, but we need those patients to get to us as soon as possible. That will minimize blood loss, minimize blood product usage, and save lives.”

Secondly, they ask for blood donors.

“We really need new donors,” said Brajuha. “We need new folks to come out and donate and boost the blood supply. Hospitals are transfusing at higher than ever rates, so it’s really important that volunteer donors step up and do their part.”