LAWTON, OK (KSWO) – Every day, someone in Oklahoma needs to be taken to the hospital by helicopter, and often they need life-saving blood along the way. However, only one air ambulance in the entire state flies with the recommended amount.
The Oklahoma Blood Institute is on a mission to supply all the medical helicopters with enough units of O-negative blood to stabilize and treat patients with traumatic injuries. Type O-negative is known as a life saver because even though very few people are born with it, everyone can receive it. The Blood Institute is reaching out to those donors to help fill this need.
The President of the Oklahoma Blood Institute came to Comanche County Memorial Hospital to spread the word about the need to provide a higher level of emergency care to trauma patients. If crews on air ambulances have units of O-negative blood on board, they can immediately begin blood transfusions during transport and will increase the chance of survival for victims. The recommended amount of blood is two units. Only one helicopter flies with that much. Eighteen helicopters have one unit, while four have none at all.
First responders need a full supply of O-negative blood at every scene, every time. Thomas Myers of Lawton is living proof. In January, he was removing Christmas lights from a commercial building when he fell thirty feet off a roof, landing on his back and a concrete floor.
"I don't remember anything about being in the hospital or receiving any care. I woke up in norm specialty, and when I woke up I had no clue what happened," Myers said.
Myers needed 8 units of blood because of massive internal bleeding and injuries resulting from the fall. He got lucky. He was fortunate enough to be treated in an air ambulance that had 2 units on hand while he was on the way to OU Medical Center.
Dr. Kevin Hoos is a trauma physician at Comanche County Memorial Hospital and he can't stress enough why giving blood is so important.
"I give blood because I understand. I've seen the importance of blood products in the industry, the impact it can have on people who require them. O-negative blood is invaluable due to the fact that it can be given to anybody in an emergency situation, and it can give them that fighting chance," Dr. Hoos said.
President and CEO of the Oklahoma Blood Institute Dr. John Armitage says, there are twenty-four air ambulance services around the state but only one carries O-negative blood. Dr. Armitage says nurses are trained to save lives, but if they don't have access to that blood, there's only so much they can do.
"When that chopper lands and the patient is being assessed, they don't have to think. It's just O-negative works all the time. I can grab this and give it. No problems will come to me later because of it. I am good to go. And then they can work on the next problem that patient has. We want that EMT to have the good stuff. No worries give them that O negative and scoop and run. Get them back to the emergency room, and I think that when they land in the emergency room it's one less thing to worry about," Dr. Armitage said.
Captain Michelle Velez-Landron serves as company commander at Fort Sill's Reynolds Army Community Hospital. She says there will always be a need to donate blood.
"If I am able to save someone's life, why not? It's important to me because already family members have been saved. My brothers, my sisters in arms, their families needed that blood so why not," Velez-Landron said.
"It feels wonderful. Every day is a great day to be alive... Every day I thank the responders the firefighters, the ambulance personnel, the hospital personnel. I thank God every day that these people are here," Myers said.
Dr. Armitage says you must be at least 16 years old, weigh 125 pounds and be in good health to donate blood. The OBI donation center is always looking for potential donors. You can visit their office on Southwest "A" Avenue in Lawton Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. to donate blood.