Video: Texas EMS saves road rage victim with rare blood transfusion

Cypress Creek EMS reported how its team transfused blood into the subclavian vein feeding directly into the heart in an ambulance

By Laura French

SPRING, Texas — Body camera video released by a Texas EMS with the patient's consent shows how a crew saved a road rage shooting victim's life with a rare blood transfusion procedure in an ambulance. 

Cypress Creek EMS wrote in a press release Friday that Vern Smith, 53, was shot with a shotgun through the driver's door of his vehicle in February, and that the shot penetrated his abdomen, went through his digestive tract and lodged in his liver. 

Smith experienced severe internal bleeding, leading Cypress Creek Assistant Medical Director and Army EMS Fello Dr. Nick Studer to opt for a rare procedure that involves inserting a catheter under the collarbone into the subclavian vein that feeds directly into the heart. 

Cypress Creek EMS was the first ground EMS system to transfuse whole blood to a trauma patient in the field in 2017, according to the agency, and is one of few EMS systems that carry whole blood on ambulances. 

"Dr. Studer’s action in establishing a central line may be the single biggest factor in Smith’s survival when combined with the availability of whole blood. The central line procedure is common in hospitals but is virtually unheard of in civilian EMS," the agency's press release states. "From Life Flight patient contact to first surgical incision was an incredible 31 minutes and it was eight minutes from skids down on Hermann helipad to the first incision. He was taken directly into the OR from the helicopter and required 40 units of blood to keep him alive during surgery."

Smith reunited with EMS crews last week to thank them, saying he did not know if he was going to survive that day. He was presented with a framed picture signed by the members of the team that worked to save him and bearing the patches of all the agencies involved in his care. 

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