When Trinity Medical Center needed some blood platelets for a critical surgery Tuesday, the icy extreme weather prevented Red Cross from making a delivery.
What came next was a coordinated effort involving multiple law agencies that got the blood to the hospital in time, said Trinity lab services director Kelley Mitcham.
“We had a patient situation where we needed some platelets, a blood product,” she said. “Platelets have a very short shelf life. We need platelets if people are bleeding and we don’t keep a lot of inventory because they have a three-day shelf life.”
So when hospitals run out of platelets or blood products they call and order some more. Trinity did that, calling Red Cross. But Red Cross delivery vehicles were snowed in under one of the worst winter storms Birmingham has seen in years. Helicopters were grounded, Mitcham said.
“Because of the situation with the roads, they couldn’t get out,” said Shelby County Emergency Management Director Hub Harvey. “They didn’t have the specialized vehicles.”
Harvey said it helped that EMA was familiar with Red Cross, their location on Caldwell Mill Road and their mission to get blood out to the hospitals.
“We had talked about contingencies ahead of time, so that came in handy,” Harvey said.
It’s all about relationships, Harvey said.
He contacted the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office who in turn used their contacts with Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Harvey said the reason for the hand-off was not to tie up any single four-wheel drive vehicle for too long a time. It could have been a seven-hour trip there and back for Shelby but cut in half with Jefferson County’s help.
“It was quite an orchestrated event,” Mitcham said. “We got the blood for the patient and were able to do surgery. It was a life saver for him.”
Jeff Blakney, Red Cross regional director of sales, helped coordinate much of this. He said law enforcement “went beyond the call of duty” considering everything going on that day.
For Mitcham, the message is donate blood, please.
“We do blood drives here every other month and people don’t realize how important that is,” Mitcham said. “I need it on the shelf.”