Md. state police helicopters now carrying whole blood for transfusions
The state's "Blood on Board" program has delivered whole blood to 23 patients across the state since its start in May
By Gabrielle Bienasz
The Frederick News-Post, Md.
BALTIMORE — Maryland State Police are now carrying blood on medical helicopter runs for transfusions as they fly patients to hospitals.
State police announced the "Blood on Board" program at a press conference Monday.
It started on May 10, according to state police.
"We believe this 'Blood on Board' program is already saving lives," Dr. Douglas Floccare, an organizer of the program, said at the press conference.
As of Monday, the helicopter EMS program had given whole blood to 23 patients across the state, said Floccare, the state air medical director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems and medical director for Maryland State Police Aviation Command.
The majority of those patients were involved in motor vehicle crashes.
State police have already flown patients whose blood pressure was low and who improved dramatically after receiving a unit of blood, then made it to the operating room, said Sgt. Joshua Heins, a flight paramedic.
Floccare said he conducted a five-year review into state police aviation data and estimated that an average of one or two patients a week could have benefited from whole blood.
The new program uses whole blood, as opposed to blood divided into components, such as red blood cells or plasma.
Patients can receive one or two units of blood on board, Ron Snyder, a state police spokesman, wrote in a text message.
The first two helicopters to carry blood were Trooper 1 in Baltimore County and Trooper 2 at Joint Base Andrews.
Now, all Maryland State Police helicopters are equipped with two units of whole blood, Floccare said.
Maryland State Police Aviation Command, the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services System and the University of Maryland Medical Center are all involved in the blood program.
UMMC provides the blood for the program from its blood bank, Snyder said in a phone interview.
Meetings about a project of this type go back to 2016, Floccare said.
"Developing this type of solution took quite a bit of visioning, quite a bit of planning, tenacity, and resilience," Ron V. Cummins Jr., the COO of the University of Maryland Medical Center, said.
"But we were able to stick with it because we understood the importance of what we were attempting to do, and today is the result of that," he said at Monday's event.
The process involved developing procedures and acquiring equipment such as a cooler that keeps blood between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius, plus training for flight paramedics, Heins said at the event.
Heins and other coordinators ensure blood is delivered periodically around the state and that unused blood is picked up, he said.
Blood not used by the state police is returned to University of Maryland's Shock Trauma Center within seven days of its expiration to ensure blood is not wasted, Heins said.
On a weekday last month, Heins was on a state police small passenger plane flying units of blood around the state.
He was restocking three of Maryland's trooper bases, whose helicopters carry the most critically injured to trauma centers.
For years, state police flight paramedics, like Heins, have only been able to give patients IV fluids while taking them to hospitals, he said.
IV fluids can temporarily increase blood pressure, but don't help patients clot or carry oxygen to their cells, Heins said.