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CareFlight first and only air service in Ohio to carry whole blood on aircraft

Premier Health’s CareFlight helicopters are now equipped to carry whole blood for emergent transfusion. Previously, whole blood was not stored on the aircraft so whole blood transfusions could not be done until the patient was at the hospital.

CareFlight Medical Director Dr. Andrew Hawk says it is now the first and only air service in Ohio to have whole blood on the helicopter.

“Advancement of technology and ability to store blood products has brought us to the point where whole blood is an option,” Dr. Hawk said.

Dr. Hawk says blood is usually fractioned down to packed cells, plasma and platelets; but having whole blood will make it possible for them to help patients quicker who are suffering from traumatic injuries.

“As we transport them to the level one trauma center, Miami Valley Hospital, we are also able to initiate a blood transfusion to treat their shock,” Dr. Hawk said.

Clinical Operations Manager Molly Nickell says it has taken two and a half years to get this program up and running.

“We had a lot of obstacles to overcome as far as making sure we were abiding by all the strict regulations that were there,” Nickell said.

The blood in this cooler has to stay between 1 and 6 degrees Celsius, and has to be monitored by staff 24/7, 365 days a year.

“Storing and transporting and infusing blood is probably the most regulated thing in all of medicine so this is something we have to maintain,” Dr. Hawk said.

The whole blood is donated by volunteers at the Community Blood Center, making their jobs of protecting it even more pertinent.

“We’re going to make sure that there is no waste of the blood, that our patients get this blood,” Nickell said.

This CareFlight staff says they are excited knowing they are lifting off, with one more tool that could save lives.

CareFlight helicopters serve a 150-mile radius, covering most of Ohio, and parts of West Virginia, Michigan, Kentucky, and Indiana. The four helicopters are located in Moraine, Urbana, and Darke and Warren counties.