EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – When it comes to patient care during traumatic events, time is of the essence. Now, thanks to a collaboration with Deaconess Blood Bank and Air Evac Lifeteam, critical care will be administered in a timely manner, all before patients even pass through the emergency room doors.

This care is in the form of necessary red blood cells and platelets, now available on all Air Evac Flights from bases in Evansville, Indiana and Olney, Illinois.

“They will be on every single patient flight,” explains flight nurse Lacee Combs, “so when we lift here from base, our patients, whether they are a scene flight or we’re picking them up from an accident, or whether they’re a transfer patient, we’ll be able to give them blood products if they’re needed.”

Combs says she describes Air Evac flights now as a mobile Intensive Care Unit. The red blood cells and blood platelets are kept on-board in special temperature-controlled coolers, which can store the supplies in the helicopter for 24 hours at a time. Having these supplies on-board will allow for critical care to begin immediately.

“Before we had these products, we were only able to give normal saline, which is not optimal in trauma patients,” says Combs. “And now we’re going to have blood on board, which will hopefully help the outcomes of our trauma patients and help with their survival.”

The concept of having blood supplies on-board seems straightforward, however the partnership was anything but. Deaconess Transfusion Safety Officer Michelle Shane says there were several uphill battles faced along the way to get to the program’s implementation.

“This was an initiative we started pre-Covid, so this has been two years in the making,” explains Shane. There were also issues “with blood supply shortages, with cooler shortages. The supply of coolers that we needed.”

The coolers consist of 1 unit each of O Negative and O Positive red blood cells, as well as units of both type AB and A blood platelets, which are universal types. Beginning life-saving procedures immediately is something trauma surgeon Dr. Jay Woodland says will help immensely.

“In the more severe patients who are bleeding, getting them blood products early on, not just the blood but also the plasma, helps them be in a better place when they arrive here for the further treatment that they need,” explains Dr. Woodland.