SAN ANTONIO – In January, Tiffany Kieschnick-Rivas suffered a stroke while driving and crashed her car.
Kieschnick-Rivas said she should be dead.
Instead, "I feel amazing today," Kieschnick-Rivas said.
Kieschnick-Rivas is the first person in San Antonio to be saved by the San Antonio Fire Department's whole blood transfusion equipment that was added to emergency medical services units in October.
"About 99 percent of victims in a situation like that where they have a traumatic arrest, they are not going to be able to be resuscitated," SAFD Chief Charles Hood said.
After three surgeries, Kieschnick-Rivas said she has never felt better and has a new outlook on life.
She is now making it her mission to tell her story about how the whole blood transfusion equipment saved her life.
"I mean, this is my way of giving back," Kieschnick-Rivas said. "I stayed for a reason and so I enjoy talking about it and letting people know."
Kieschnick-Rivas is just one of 156 people who have received the whole blood.
The San Antonio Fire Department said it is not certain if the 156 patients would have died without it, but did say many lives have been saved because of the whole blood.
"We'd love to say that we've saved all 156 (people)," said Lt. William Bullock, with SAFD's EMS personnel.
When the program started, there were six units across the city carrying the equipment that makes the transfusions possible – a cooler and a blood warming device.
It costs $5,500 per EMS unit to carry the equipment.
Now, eight SAFD units are carrying the equipment, thanks to two donors: Kieschnick-Rivas' father and Qinflow, a company that makes the blood warming devices.
The company said it invented the device in 2014. They say thousands of lives have been saved by it.
But when they saw Kieschnick-Rivas' story on KSAT, it was the first human connection they were able to make.
"Tiffany (Kieschnick-Rivas) was the first time we could attach a name to a face and an amazing rescue story and that moved everybody in the company," said Ariel Katz, CEO of Qinflow.
Hood said since they launched the program, several other counties and cities have contacted SAFD about how the program works.
Below is a look at the different surrounding counties that are now carrying whole blood:
- Wilson County ESD 3: 1 unit
- Bexar County ESD 2: 1 unit
- Bexar County ESD 7: 1 unit
- Karnes County EMS: 1 unit
- Bulverde-Spring Branch: 1 unit
- Canyon Lake EMS: 1 unit
More importantly, Hood said, more lives will be saved.
"It's a game-changer," Hood said.
Qinflow is asking the community for more donations. They promised matching a donation of a warming device up to 10 donations.
A cooler costs $1,500 and the warming devices cost $4,000, for a total coast of $5,500.
The blood used for SAFD whole blood transfusions comes from a specific group named Brothers in Arms, a special project with the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center.
The project has led to a stable, easily replenished blood supply so the fire department can carry whole blood regularly.
The group is looking for more members of the community to take part.
Those members must be males – who tend to have lower levels of antibodies in their blood than women – and have type-O positive blood, which helps prevent reactions to patients who receive the emergency transfusions.
Anyone interested in donating blood can call the center.
To donate toward the cause, contact the San Antonio Fire Department.