Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s Critical Care Paramedics and Doctors gave pre-hospital blood transfusions to 35 patients during the first year of carrying blood on board the helicopter and rapid response vehicle.
Of the 35 patients given blood transfusions, 28 survived to hospital.
Before it began carrying blood Wiltshire Air Ambulance (WAA) estimated that one to two patients a month, on average, would benefit from receiving pre-hospital blood transfusions. But in the first 12 months of carrying blood ( August 2015 – August 2016), WAA’s crews gave pre-hospital blood transfusions, on average, to three patients per month in Wiltshire and surrounding counties.
One patient who survived after being given pre-hospital blood transfusions by WAA is Mark Bryant, 40, of Cirencester, who was seriously injured in a road traffic collision.
Mr Bryant was extensively trapped in his van and WAA paramedics suspected he had suffered major blood loss. They gave him two units of blood at the scene, one unit while he was trapped in his van, following the collision near Somerford Keynes in Gloucestershire before he was taken to Southmead Hospital, Bristol, by land ambulance.
Mr Bryant’s injuries included a shattered pelvis, bruised aorta and head injury and he was in an induced coma for ten days. He was discharged from hospital after two and a half months.
The collision, on 3 September 2015, occurred just two and a half weeks after WAA began carrying blood.
Mr Bryant, who owns a fishing bait company in Cirencester, visited WAA’s Operations Centre in Devizes earlier this month to thank the crew who came to his aid.
He said: “I’m really humbled by what Wiltshire Air Ambulance did for me. The pre-hospital blood transfusions that I received saved my life. Blood is crucially important to help seriously injured people and I am so grateful that I was able to benefit from the blood being carried by Wiltshire Air Ambulance.
“I didn’t know about Wiltshire Air Ambulance before my accident. It’s an amazing team that comes together to keep people safe across Wiltshire and beyond, and it’s a charity funded by public donations.”
Each day, two units of O negative blood are collected from the North Bristol Trust Transfusion Laboratory at Southmead Hospital and delivered to WAA’s Operations Centre in Devizes by the blood bike charity Freewheelers EVS. Additional deliveries can be made if required by WAA crews.
If the blood is not used it is returned to Southmead Hospital by the volunteer blood bikers after 24 hours. The blood storage boxes maintain the temperature of the blood within very narrow limits for well over 24 hours. Any unused blood units are therefore able to be put back into the Southmead Hospital blood bank, preventing waste.
Mel Rowbottom, a trustee of Freewheelers EVS, said: “Our volunteers have done a fantastic job, fulfilling their commitment to provide the essential relay link to move the blood supplies between Southmead Hospital and the air ambulance crews, whether at the base or meeting them en-route to a call out. The volunteers have ensured the delivery occurred every night in all types of weather and get a huge sense of pride knowing they played their part in helping to save lives.
“There is a great rapport between all the charity partners and Southmead, which has allowed the service to easily evolve to meet changing operational requirements over the past 12 months, and we look forward to developing the service further over the next year.”
Richard Miller, Critical Care Paramedic at WAA, said: “Carrying blood is making a real difference to the care we can give to patients suffering life-threatening bleeding caused by trauma and some acute medical conditions. Being able to give blood transfusions at the scene of an incident gives us extra vital minutes to get patients to hospital for them to receive emergency care.”
David Philpott, Chief Executive of WAA, said: “Carrying blood on board Wiltshire Air Ambulance has proven to be of real benefit to patients and in most cases it has been lifesaving. Working with our partners, we are proud to offer this enhancement to the service that our crews provide to seriously ill and injured patients.”
To find out more information visit the website at www.wiltshireairambulance.co.uk