Unique blood transfusion saves people airlifted after traumatic events

Program seeks male donors with Type O-positive blood

SAN ANTONIO – A unique type of blood transfusion is saving lives of people involved in traumatic accidents in South Texas.

A program through the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center called Brothers in Arms is equipping air medical crews with blood to be used for transfusions while patients are being airlifted to hospitals.

“We supply (blood) to 18 different helicopter sites. A lot of places are doing it at just one helicopter. We’re doing it on a much larger scale,” said Samantha Ngamsuntikul, with the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center.

For traditional transfusions, patients receive red blood cells, plasma or platelets. But through the Brothers in Arms program, patients receive all components of the blood.

“These people, when they're out at a car accident or at an event where they need lots of blood, they're bleeding out whole blood. They're not just bleeding out red blood cells or platelets,” Ngamsuntiku said.

Research shows that whole blood transfusions give people a better chance of survival.

“It’s just a needle stick. Blood flows out and you're done (in) 15, 20 minutes tops,” said Jerry Sandoval, a donor, about the process of donating blood.

To qualify, whole blood donors must be men with Type O-positive blood. This is because men tend to have lower levels of certain antibodies in their blood, which can help prevent reactions in patients who receive a transfusion. Sandoval is a perfect fit for the program.

“You never know who's going to need blood. It could be a family member, a friend. It’s like insurance. It's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it,” Sandoval said.

Brothers in Arms organizers hope to screen more men for the program. Anyone who is accepted will be asked to donate blood every eight weeks for a year.

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