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NEWS | Dec. 13, 2021

Blood Connects Us All: Norfolk Naval Shipyard Continues the Fight on Emergency Blood Shortage

By Troy Miller, Public Affairs Specialist Norfolk Naval Shipyard

What do barbers and vampires have in common? Both have performed bloodletting procedures. Ah yes, you probably thought this was a start to a bad dad joke, but for centuries, barbers performed bloodletting procedures to help cure illness and restore health. Barbers were chosen to perform this procedure since they have experience working with sharp tools.

Barber-surgeons, as they were called at the time, would have a pole on display outside their shop. The pole represented the stick that the client would squeeze to pop out their veins. The red presents the blood and the white presents the bandages used to stem the bleeding. Later on, a blue stripe was added to the barbershop’s symbol, although there is no confirmation on why the blue stripe was added, one theory is that it represents the vein that was cut for the bloodletting.

Although barbers no longer perform the bloodletting procedure, the practice of removing blood, or in the case of today’s terminology, donating blood, is in heavy demand today. Surgeries that were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic are now present with more advanced diseases that require a more aggressive approach to treatment. The rise in overdoses, gun violence and other trauma during the pandemic has led to a depleted inventory.

The primary reason for Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) blood drives is the same as all other drives: required blood products are shipped every week downrange for deployed military members. Blood products received from NNSY also support the hospital patients’ needs for medical treatment facilities in this region from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. There are 19 blood donor centers in the continental United States that assist each other when possible to send blood products. If there is a time issue, support is given from civilian donor program. In this region, it is the American Red Cross (ARC).          

“NNSY has been consistent of meeting our goal of a minimum of 25 successful donors,” said Armed Services Blood Program Division’s Donor Recruiter Ralph Peters. “However, with the blood shortage, we need to go above and beyond our goal.”

Recently blood drives onboard the shipyard increased from one to two per month to better capture willing donor volunteers. Having two days instead of one day to donate ensures a less wait time for the donor volunteer and offers an optional date due to a donor volunteer’s work schedule.

The basic criteria to give blood is one must feel well, be rested, be hydrated, have eaten substantially before arriving, weigh at least 110 pounds, be at least 18 years old, have had no physical activity beforehand or waited at least 1.5 hours, and have their Common Access Card (CAC) or  valid self-pictured driver's license. With these criteria, anyone who can access the shipyard, including family members, can volunteer.

A potential donor can walk-in or schedule an appointment at It is strongly encouraged to make online appointments at NNSY. This is because of the distance that volunteers come from to support these drives. Plus it will help lessen the wait time, which will help personnel in getting back to performing NNSY’s mission a lot sooner.

“The mission of the Navy is to maintain, train and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas,” said NNSY Installation Blood Drive Coordinator Melanie Prescott. “Here at NNSY, our motto is ONE MISSION – ONE TEAM. I like to think that ‘ONE TEAM’ expands outside our gates when it comes to equip combat-ready naval forces with blood products.”