Saving lives faster: Med-flight helicopters can now transport blood

Med-flight helicopters can now transport blood

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Medical personnel now have a new tool in aiding trauma patients being transported by helicopter.

In the past, first responders could not transport blood in aircraft as there was no proper way to store it prior to flight. That’s because helicopters were stationed at airports, and blood was stored in hospitals.

“We have patients that have uncontrollable bleeding internally and externally. The only thing we could offer was IV fluids, which doesn’t carry any oxygen to the organs,” Jamie Graff, a registered nurse, said.

Graff stressed the importance of blood in major medical emergencies.

Now, through a joint effort by the American Red Cross, Virginia State Police, and VCU Health, some blood is stored stored at the same location where the medical helicopters take off.

“The sooner we can get blood products to out patients, the more viable they are,” flight paramedic Jethro Piland said.

A cooler used to store blood can send temperature readings to VCU and have it accessible to med-flight helicopters.
A cooler used to store blood can send temperature readings to VCU and have it accessible to med-flight helicopters. (Source: NBC12)

Previously, there was no way to properly store blood on air bases, but now VSP assists VCU is maintaining the blood in coolers.

“We not only monitor those temperatures locally, but that temperature is transmitted back to VCU Health Systems," Piland said.

So far, VCU said chopper-transported blood has been used in at least nine cases in central Virginia.

“These types of calls come in 24 hours a day. That’s why having the blood on the shelves is so vital. When these practitioners make that call, they’re be able to administer it when they have that resource,” American Red Cross representative Jonathan McNamara said.

The Red Cross said blood supply is contingent on donations, and if you are interested in donating to visit their donation site at RedCross.org.

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