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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s AirLink helicopters are now carrying two units of blood on their helicopters during every patient transport flight.

Stored in specially designed coolers proven to keep blood cooled to safe temperatures for over 48 hours, AirLink is now able to bring O-blood directly to patients experiencing hemorrhagic shock. Known as the universal donor, O-blood can be safely given to all patients experiencing severe bleeding.

“In the past, when a patient experienced severe blood loss, paramedics’ options were limited to the administration of intravenous normal saline and rapid transport to a surgeon. Now, patients being transferred to NHRMC for trauma care can receive oxygen-carrying blood as soon as AirLink arrives at their side,” said William Powers IV, MD, medical director of AirLink/VitaLink Critical Care Transport.

“Pre-hospital blood transfusions are a huge step forward and have been shown to increase 24-hour survival, and decrease the likelihood of shock and the total amount of blood patients need during stabilization,” said John Popella, director of AirLink/VitaLink Critical Care Transport. “This is another example of our AirLink team initiating more care at the point of contact.”

Implementation of blood transfusions has been a collaborative effort between NHRMC’s AirLink/VitaLink and the NHRMC Blood Bank. After blood is donated, it has a shelf life of about 45 days, during which it must be properly stored following strict regulations to ensure that the blood can be safely transfused to patients. A key pillar of this project has been to ensure no donated blood is wasted.

NHRMC’s AirLink operates two helicopters, AirLink 1 is located in Onslow County while AirLink 2 is based in Whiteville. Both helicopters can fly up to 150 miles in any direction at speeds reaching 150 mph. Each helicopter has the O-red blood cells immediately available for any patient who may benefit from a pre-hospital blood transfusion.

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