Archive for October, 2013

October 8, 2013

Blood & Plasma Aboard St. Joseph AirMedical

Billy Rice, St. Joseph Air Medical Supervisor

Billy Rice, St. Joseph Air Medical Supervisor

St. Joseph AirMedical now flies with plasma and blood – to get it quickly to patients who need it most.

“This is absolutely one of the best lifesaving procedures we can give a patient in the field,” said Dr. Adair de Berry-Carlisle, Trauma Program Medical Director at St. Joseph.  “If it’s a prolonged scene time and first responders are taking time to cut patients out of vehicles, our flight nurses and paramedics can start infusions the minute they get there.”

“Putting blood on the helicopter is actually a very new thing,” said Billy Rice, St. Joseph Air Medical Supervisor.  “We’re one of the first helicopters in the state and among the first helicopters in the country to perfect the process.”

Historically, patients transported by ambulance or medical helicopter have been given saline IVs.

“We know now the best thing to give a patient who is acutely bleeding, is blood,” said Carlisle.  “When a patient bleeds, they’re bleeding blood not saline.”

Heavy blood loss can have serious consequences if not corrected in time.

“When you’re losing a lot of blood, processes in your body start to falter and things don’t work right,” said Carlisle.  “What little blood you have isn’t clotting, you get cold, a lot of bad things can happen.  Losing blood and getting cold can cause the body to progressively deteriorate.”

However, receiving blood and plasma transfusions early in a life-threatening situation can help patients stabilize.

“Replacing lost blood products helps support the clotting process which is vital in a trauma situation,” said Carlisle.

Dr. Adair de Berry-Carlisle

Dr. Adair de Berry-Carlisle

Normally, plasma kept at a blood bank has a 30-minute defrosting time.  Thanks to a partnership among the blood bank, lab, emergency department and St. Joseph AirMedical, the crew is able to load two units of O negative blood and two units of plasma as they board, without waiting for the plasma to thaw.

St. Joseph is the only Level II Trauma Center in the region and one of a handful of hospitals in the nation that operates both ground and air ambulances.

“Ultimately we just want to act as an extension of the trauma service team at the hospital,” said Rice.