GWAAC celebrates five years of lifesaving blood transfusions - Great Western Air Ambulance Charity
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GWAAC celebrates five years of lifesaving blood transfusions

Dr Ed Valentine
Medical Director

Five years on from when GWAAC’s crew first started carrying blood products, Medical Director Dr Ed Valentine, describes how being able to give emergency blood transfusions is saving lives.

“It’s revolutionised our ability to manage seriously unwell patients who have lost a lot of blood. We can now start blood transfusions at the side of the road. It’s made a huge difference to patients, many of which would have previously died.”

Our Critical Care Team now carries blood products onboard both the helicopter and critical care cars. They carry packed O-negative red blood cells, which can be safely administered to any blood type in an emergency, and fresh frozen plasma, which contains clotting factors to help stop bleeding. Having these products at hand means that they can manage major trauma and blood loss on scene with a much higher chance of a positive outcome for the patient. For those who would otherwise not make it to hospital in time, it can mean the difference between life and death.

In 2020, the charity’s Critical Care Doctors and Specialist Paramedics gave 41 patients emergency transfusions, using 64 units of blood and 60 fresh frozen plasma units. One such incident was a road traffic collision involving a lorry driver who was trapped in the cabin with severe leg injuries. They were deteriorating very quickly and needed critical care, fast. Our crew administered a blood transfusion on scene, stabilizing the patient so that they could transport them to hospital for ongoing care. “A few years ago, this patient would likely not have survived,” says Dr Valentine.

GWAAC is only able to offer this revolutionary care on scene thanks to a wider team. The blood products they carry are specially prepared by the blood bank at Southmead Hospital in Bristol and stored in thermal cooling boxes to ensure it is maintained at the right temperature. The blood products are delivered to the charity’s airbase daily by Freewheelers, a volunteer-run organisation of blood bikers. If the products are not used during the shift, they are returned to hospital to ensure they are not wasted.

In June 2019, 17-year-old Ollie from Gloucestershire found himself in desperate need of GWAAC’s Critical Care Team after he was involved in a road traffic collision whilst out cycling.

Read on to find out more about Ollie’s story and how carrying blood products saved his life on scene.

Read Ollie's story