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Mercy Health Life Flight now carrying blood on all patient transports

Seconds make the difference between life and death for those in need of urgent blood transfusions
Published: Oct. 22, 2020 at 10:12 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - When seconds can make the difference between life and death, Mercy Health’s Life Flight helicopter crews come to the rescue. The team transports more than 2,800 patients a year, responding to more than 350 trauma scenes.

Now, they have the ability to carry something everyone needs to live onboard every flight.

“About a month ago we started carrying about two units of O negative blood with us on every flight that we do," says Darrick Applegate, Clinical Field Operations Manager for Mercy Health’s Life Flight, whose teams are now stocking and carrying blood to give to patients in urgent need of transfusions.

The program was first discussed six months ago, and after coordinating with medical directors, blood banks, and other area first responders, it found its wings.

Applegate spearheaded the program at Mercy Health and says similar programs are becoming more popular for EMS helicopter crews across the country.

“The fridge is set for four degrees, so anywhere between one and six degrees Celsius for storage," Applegate said. “We can start it as soon as we get to the scene.”

Several patients have already been given transfusions from the team this way, including a woman in the Wauseon area, whose Fire Department was able to bring her to Mercy’s base at the Fulton County Airport.

“Out in rural Fulton County, we get a lot of high-speed impact crashes, a lot of mangled cars, things like that we have to cut patients out that have internal bleeding," says Wauseon Fire Captain Andrew Sauder

It’s on the country roads like these, far from level one trauma centers like Mercy Health St. Vincent Hospital in Toledo, that time is so critical to saving lives, and now first responders have an edge in the field, and in the air.

“It was a medical patient who had very low blood pressure and signs of external bleeding," explains Capt. Sauder. “They brought the blood into our ambulance, we already had the IV’s established, so they just tied into those and continued the continuity of care.”

Krystal Mousouleas is a Critical Care Transport Nurse, who was one of the heroes responding to this patient.

“That gives us a tool to give her what she wasn’t able to get probably for 25 minutes before getting to the hospital,” she said.

Her colleague, Critical Care Transport Paramedic Kelly Norris, says other medications can be used to try to stabilize a patient on their way to the hospital, but carrying blood with them is a game-changer.

“Normally when we have someone who’s hypotensive from blood loss, we have drugs on board, some fluids on board like normal saline ... things like that we can give. None of those are a direct replacement for human blood," says Norris.

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