Woman survives traumatic crash thanks to new resource on SAFD EMS units

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter, Joe Herrera - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - Firefighters said Tiffany Kieschnick-Rivas would have died, but now she's able to thank the people who saved her after receiving a lifesaving whole blood transfusion following a traumatic crash. 

Kieschnick-Rivas, 37, suffered traumatic cardiac arrest last month, which means she suffered so much trauma that she didn't have a chance of surviving, but thanks to the whole blood transfusion that she received when first responders arrived at scene, she is alive.

“I would not be here without them,” Kieschnick-Rivas said.

Kieschnick-Rivas only expected to run a quick errand at a gas station near her home. She ended up in a mangled mess of metal on Galm Road.

KSAT's Sky 12 helicopter cameras captured the crash last month. Her 13- and 9-year-old sons realized it was their mother in the crash while watching KSAT.

“I started praying that she would make it,” said Austin, 9, Kieschnick-Rivas son.

Doctors believe a stroke caused Kieschnick-Rivas to lose control of her car and flip into a ditch.

Paramedic Jason Aguilar with the San Antonio Fire Department was one of the first at the scene.

“I thought for sure she was done,” Aguilar said.

Kieschnick-Rivas suffered multiple fractures in her neck and back, broken bones in her face and on her ribs and a punctured spleen that led to major blood loss.

The fire department was able to deliver lifesaving whole blood transfusions while in the back of their emergency medical services unit.

“By the time the AirLife (helicopter EMS) had landed, we had already given her a whole unit of blood,” Aguilar said. “She started to wake up.”

Coolers and blood warming devices are what make it possible for whole blood to be carried on EMS units.

The fire department said seven units are equipped with whole blood transfusion technology. It's been used 56 times, and the department said double the amount of lives have been saved since it started the program in October.

Kieschnick-Rivas is the first traumatic cardiac arrest patient to come back to life after receiving whole blood on scene.

“I can't thank you enough,” Kieschnick-Rivas said to Aguilar and the fire department team. “I know my children thank you."

San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood presented Kieschnick-Rivas with a medal for her survival and bravery.

“You're a hero, a true hero,” Hood said to Kieschnick-Rivas.

Kieschnick-Rivas believes she survived for a reason.

“The angels were looking over me that day,” she said. “I just feel like I'm back for a purpose. If I can help them get the word out about whole blood to save more people, I'm on board.”

Another grateful person for the whole blood technology being available on local fire department units is Kieschnick-Rivas' father, Charlie Kieschnick. He said he wants to pay it forward because his daughter's life was spared and donated money through a third-party to the city to buy the equipment so that one more ambulance can carry whole blood.

“I'm doing it for her kids and my grandkids,” Kieschnick said. “It's just something I feel is very important, that every ambulance in San Antonio and the whole country needs to be equipped with.”

It costs about $4,000 to provide a cooler and blood warmer on one EMS unit.

Kieschnick said he hopes his daughter's story inspires other people to donate.

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