They're job is to save lives but now PHI paramedics on board St Joseph's Medical Helicopter can actually give the gift of life. The helicopter is one of a few in Texas that will have blood and plasma on board for patients needing immediate transfusions.
Call it what you will, but there's a golden rule in the industry where every second counts.
"We have what we call a platinum ten minutes,” said Bryan Fire Department Assistant EMS Chief, Cory Matthews. “That’s the amount of time you need to get the patient to definitive care; and definitive care is surgery in most trauma patients."
But now, patients who've suffered traumatic blood loss and are being air-lifted by St. Joseph PHI Medical helicopter won't have to wait until they get to the ER before they receive a blood transfusion.
“When they are losing blood, they need to have the blood replenished as fast as they can because there are several things that go on in the body that spiral out of control the more blood that continues to be lost,” said Trauma Surgeon, Dr. Adair Carlisle.
Trauma patients make up 60 percent of the total flight volume at PHI and doctors say this is the best, fastest and most definitive care that you can give a trauma patient who's bleeding. Crews will stock two units of O negative blood as well as two units of plasma.
“So the blood is transported on every flight and it is secured here on the aircraft and it lives inside the Emergency room at St. Joes,” said PHI Flight Medic Billy Rice.
Crews pack a lightweight cooler with the blood products as they leave, without having to jump through extra hoops to get it.
"When we go on a flight we grab this bag and it has all of our blood inside and it has everything we need to draw the blood,” Rice said. “We carry two-different blood products; we carry packed red blood cells and plasma. Plasma is the limiting factor and the hardest one to get out of the hospital. The shelf life of the typical unit of plasma is five days. The lab here at St. Joes changes it out every three days, so all we have to worry about is getting it to the patient.”
Having this on hand is especially important in rural parts of the Brazos Valley, where transport times are longer and supplies are limited.
“The older population that are on blood thinners; we can give them plasma in scene to control bleeding because they're on blood thinners, but we can also give them products to help them stop bleeding,” said Dr. Carlisle.
“We have a refrigerator in the ER that the lab nurses and charge nurses take care of and that enables us to essentially every single time we get a flight, no matter where we're going we just go through the ER and grab the blood and it goes on every flight,” Rice said.
Doctors say it's an extension of the trauma care offered and flight medics are able to now give patients who may be facing life or death. Billy Rice says it's taken a year to have the blood and plasma approved and implemented.
“We can touch those facing patients in the far reaching areas and give them the same immediate care they would get 20, 30 minutes later in evaluation,” Carlisle said.
“They’re in a critical condition and the faster we can get the patients taken care of,” Carlisle said. “We are now able to give them blood on scene; we able to give them blood en route. I just want people to understand how amazing this is for our area.”