Carrying and Administering Lifesaving Prehospital Blood

When New Hanover (North Carolina) Regional Medical Center’s AirLink teams began carrying prehospital blood in September 2017, patients experiencing hemorrhagic shock gained the ability to receive lifesaving oxygen-carrying red blood cells while being transported to the trauma center.

Prehospital blood transfusions are known to increase 24-hour survival while also decreasing the total amount of blood needed during hospitalization, but are only available on about half of the EMS helicopters in the United States. In a testament to the need for prehospital blood transfusions, the first patient to receive this lifesaving service was just four days after the blood was added to the helicopters.

Increased Demand

Adding blood to AirLink created new demand for blood from the American Red Cross and the NHRMC blood bank. Each helicopter base needed to have two units on the helicopter at all times as well as two units in a storage refrigerator available as a replacement following blood administration.

The NHRMC AirLink team saw this increased demand as an opportunity to give back to the region and reached out to form a partnership between AirLink and the Red Cross. This was done with the understanding that if there was going to be an increase in blood availability to those in need, the entire region needed to have an increase in the supply of blood on hand at all times.

Throughout 2018, AirLink has been running a campaign to promote the need for blood donation as well as to help alleviate the demand for blood by committing to sponsor blood drives throughout the entire region that AirLink serves. Through television news stories and regular social media videos, the team frequently shares the value of AirLink’s prehospital blood administration, and has demonstrated how important—and easy—it is to donate blood.

Through a total of five blood drives in 2018, the team has used Facebook Live videos to let the public see how simple a donation is. The team also reaches out directly to healthcare professionals, with the slogan “if you are healthy enough to administer blood, then it is your responsibility to donate too.”

You can see many more of these videos on the AirLink/VitaLink Facebook page.

Since partnering, blood drives have successfully been hosted in three counties across Southeastern North Carolina, and more than 250 lives have been impacted by either blood donated during AirLink blood drives or by blood administered to patients while being transported by AirLink helicopters.

Efforts Continue

This team’s efforts to increase access to lifesaving blood products aren’t over. Blood drives for 2019 are already scheduled. And, to further increase AirLink’s lifesaving capabilities, the team is working to be able to also offer plasma on all AirLink helicopters.