Air Evac ambulances now carrying red blood cells and plasma to treat patients in flight

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Published: Jul. 12, 2022 at 12:07 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - For patients who are air evacuated to trauma centers, time is crucial. A recent upgrade may just save their life.

“We are getting those patients here within that golden hour of trauma, and now we have blood products on board to be able to give to them,” said Air Evac 46 Flight Nurse Lacee Combs.

Deaconess Blood Bank is partnering with Air Evac to provide blood in flight, something local Surgeon Dr. Jay Woodland knows could make or break a patient’s outcome.

“Getting blood products, not just the red cells but also the plasma and the clotting factors in them earlier, will help their outcome, without a doubt,” said Woodland.

Combs recalled times where it could have been used.

“We’ve picked up a trauma patient and known that they’ve had the signs and symptoms, mechanism injury to which they may be bleeding inside, and we really could have used it then,” said Combs.

Now it’s available. Not every medical helicopter has added blood to their equipment, but Air Evac has, just in time for what they know as trauma season, a time of year where vehicle accidents are tend to rise.

“It’s those types of injuries that have the internal bleeding,” said Woodland. “This might be a difference maker for them.”

The blood is stored in a temperature controlled cooler which is switched out every 12 hours. When the cooler is opened, Combs says it’s only when they know they’re using it right away.

“So we open this up then we are definitely giving somebody blood products, like it’s pretty serious,” said Combs.

The blood supply comes from the blood bank at Deaconess. A supply that is getting better, but still needs help.

“[I] hate to say we are getting out of a blood shortage, we are getting more comfortable, but the need is always going to be there,” said Transfusion Safety Officer Michelle Shane. “We need constant replenishment of the supply and we constantly need donors.”

They say this new initiative began July 1, with the Air Evac and Deaconess Blood Bank teams practicing safe storage and transfer processes for the blood products throughout the month of June.

For more information on blood donation, visit the Red Cross’ website to find a blood drive near you.

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