10 years since first Air Ambulance blood transfusion

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance has marked 10 years (17 April 2024) since its life-saving crew carried out the charity’s first blood transfusion.

In 2014, the crew responded to a road traffic collision in the New Forest and administered blood before taking the critically unwell patient to hospital.

In the last five years alone, the charity’s doctors and paramedics have administered blood 274 times on scene.

Among the top incidents the crews administered blood at is trauma, particularly road traffic collisions, and severe gastrointestinal bleeds. For many of these patients, any delay in starting a transfusion can be life-threatening.

The blood carried on board is type O negative, known as the ‘universal donor,’ which is safe to give to any patient. In 2022 the charity became one of the first UK Air Ambulance charities to take part in a pioneering whole blood trial, which is currently ongoing.

University Hospital Southampton Blood Transfusion Department (UHS BTD) supplies the charity’s blood three times per week, which is delivered by SERV Wessex. Any blood that is not used within 48 hours is returned to UHS where it can re-enter their supply chain and therefore avoid any wastage of this precious resource.

On 8 July 2022, 57-year-old Dawn Piper from Australia suffered life-threatening injuries when she was involved in a motorhome and HGV road traffic collision near Whitchurch.

Dawn required an emergency blood transfusion from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance crew to stem the blood loss from her fractured femur and complex lacerations to her leg and face.

Dawn’s blood pressure was falling dangerously low. Without adequate pain relief and an emergency transfusion, Dawn could have suffered detrimental injuries to her internal organs.

She was taken to University Hospital Southampton by road ambulance, with the air ambulance doctor and specialist paramedic travelling with her to continue her care.

A lady stood on the coast with the sea and blue skies behind her.

Dawn said:

“Without the air ambulance being dispatched to the accident, my outcome would have been very different. The fact that the helicopter carries blood made all the difference. I was a long way away from home, and I am so grateful that thanks to the highly qualified team on board I eventually got back to Australia to see my daughter, partner and dog. The Aftercare team have also been instrumental in my recovery, and I am so thankful to them all.”

Mark Durell, Specialist Paramedic Lead for Blood, said:

“Day and night, 365 days a year, we carry blood on board our aircraft and in our Critical Care Paramedic response car. Getting a blood transfusion into patients in need as quickly as possible is vital. It could mean the difference between them making it to the hospital alive and returning home to their loved ones, or not making it home at all. It’s that simple.

“As ever, a huge thanks goes to our dedicated supporters who ensure we can continue evolving our practices to give each patient we treat the best chance of survival and recovery when the worst happens.”

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