The nonprofit has held numerous blood drives in Williamson County in recent years and is now looking to expend its local donor base to help address local blood shortages.
"[Blood supply has] been the lowest I've ever seen as a medical professional," said Dr. Ted Kieffer, medical director for Blood Assurance in the Nashville area. "It's a nationwide issue—the means by which we have recruited donors historically have relied on largely high schools and brick-and-mortar businesses where we send out a bus. With people being isolated because of COVID-19 and because of the pandemic, those haven't been as available. So that immediately cut many of our most productive drives out."
The new center will be one of the area's only permanent donation centers, according to Blood Assurance, which allows the community to support local health care providers.
"What's unique about this facility here is it offers the entire Williamson County community an opportunity to have a donor center in their neighborhood," said Jerry Antoine, regional operations director for Blood Assurance's northwest territory. "We are the local supplier for Williamson County—100% of all the blood and blood products used at Williamson Medical Center comes from Blood Assurance. So having a blood center here in their community allows [residents] to come out and support that hospital."
The center will feature private donor screening rooms, a collection area and a post-donation seating area for donors to have refreshments.
Donors are typically asked to block out about an hour of time for a donation; however, that time can vary based on the donation type, Antoine said. The center will be able to accept whole blood, platelets, plasma and red blood cells.
While donations took a hit during the pandemic, Kieffer said the nonprofit has worked with Williamson Medical Center to innovate during that time. He said Blood Assurance helped to collect convalescent plasma—which contains antibodies—and supplied it to Williamson Medical Center, which was the first hospital in the nation to use plasma, with approval from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, to treat COVID-19.
Frequent donors are able to set up a profile on Blood Assurance's website and collect points for the chance to win prizes, according to the nonprofit.
While the center is slated to open in mid-August, those interested in donating before then can sign up for appointments at Blood Assurance's mobile donation center.
While all blood types are currently needed, Antoine and Kieffer said blood type O- is needed as it is a universal blood type, as well as B-, which is a less common blood type.
"[The supply] is dire, and it's day to day," Kieffer said. "The difference between having enough blood on our shelves and potentially not is just a big trauma. We know people want to help, and we want to help them help."