Effective July 1, Gonzales EMS began carrying a unit of whole blood.
Whole blood refers to the state of the blood used in a transfusion, where plasma and platelets have not been removed. This will allow for treatment of patients who have suffered major blood loss, internal bleeding, or any other trauma where a blood transfusion could be helpful.
Gonzales County Emergency Services Department Director Eddie Callender said that the county waited a month to join the program. It remained on a waiting list until a facility in Atascosa County closed down, Callender said. Gonzales County received their unit of whole blood.
“We are not the first, but we got it as quickly as we could,” Callender said.
Blood wasn’t available outside a hospital until the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council, which includes the Gonzales ESD, launched a project to make screened and tested blood accessible to member medical helicopters and ground ambulances.
“The blood is the responsibility of the EMS Captains, Jess Fullilove, James McLeod and Scott Evan,” Callender said. “They constantly monitor the temperature of the blood and change coolers every 12 hours. When blood is needed, the Captain on duty will respond to the scene with the blood.”
One of the requirements of this program is a special cooler which keeps the blood between 32 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit, and a blood warmer that raises the blood’s temperature to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit for transfusion. Callender said the cost of the program was most heavily weighed by the blood heater, which was $4,083. The total cost of the program to the county is just under $5,000, accounting for thermometers, warming circuits, blood tubing and other necessary supplies.
The blood is Type O, known as the universal donor. However, not just any blood can be used for this program, which is why Gonzales County was on a waiting list.
“The administration of this blood, known as Low Titre O positive Whole Blood will be in conjunction with the drug already in use by the ESD– EMS, known as TXA,” Callender said. “The TXA helps slow the bleeding chemically while the blood replaces some or all of what was lost and enhances the delivery of life saving oxygen to the body’s organs and cells.”
Blood for this program is supplied by the Texas Blood and Tissue Center in San Antonio, where donors for this particular blood group are known as “Brothers in Arms.”
“This group of young men have provided the blood that is currently saving 100 to 200 lives per year just in our region,” Callender said. “The ESD plans to do our share to help the STBTC collect more blood and find more LTOWB donors. If you are interested in donating and testing to see if you may qualify as a ‘Brother in Arms,’ please contact ESD1 EMS at 830-672-4949, or the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center at 210-731-5555.”