Heidelberg, Germany -- On Friday evening, June 13, at Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center (LARMC) a soldier-patient was 'crashing' -- he was not going to make it without additional blood. All US military and local German sources had been exhausted. At 10:13 p.m. a call was placed to the 45th Medical Company in Grafenwoehr, Germany. The medical evacuation crew departed at 11:15 p.m.; arrived at Nuernberg North Hospital at 11:37 p.m., picked up the blood; departed Nuernberg North at 11:45 p.m. and arrived at LARMC at 12:46. The blood arrived in time. The soldier survived. They just did their job. They are heroes. They are soldiers taking care of soldiers.
According to Maj. Ken Pell, European Command (EUCOM) Joint Blood Program Officer and Europe Regional Medical Command Blood Program Consultant, this scenario is not typical. Adequate amounts of US blood products are usually available. However, when the exception occurs, the US Army medical evacuation crews can be critical to patient survival.
On Thursday, a very critically ill patient arrived from Iraq and required massive amounts of blood products for transfusions. Most surgeons consider four units a significant transfusion, this patient would eventually require a total of more than 135. Blood products scheduled to arrive from the United States were delayed for 35 hours so blood was ordered from local sources at Homburg and Bad Kreuznach. This was not enough. The Bavarian Red Cross at Nuernberg was contacted and the 45th Medical Company delivered. The rest is history.
CW2 Shawn Land, the pilot in command and pilot W01 Jason LaCrosse, balk at the term hero, "that is what we are here for. The feeling of accomplishment is what makes the medevac a great place to fly."
According to Land, every mission does not involve the life saving heroics of June 13. "It is a team effort and depends on the mission we are called on to perform. Sometimes it is just transporting a patient from one hospital to the next. Other times the timing and actions by the crew are essential to patient survival. It all depends on how badly the patient is injured and on the need for the supplies we are delivering. During deployments we often see gunshot victims, motor vehicle accident victims and other severe traumas."
"The medical evacuation company is diverse in its make up," Land said. "It is the size of some battalions consisting of a headquarters platoon, three forward support medical teams and an area support team. Jobs can range from medics to aircraft maintenance, and from pilots, to cooks. The medics are trained in cardiac life support, pediatric life support and basic trauma life support as well as aircraft and aviation skills."
Lt. Col. Michael Newell, an Army Reservist on active duty at LARMC, working as the chief, Blood Bank Transfusion Service, is the officer who took charge of the transportation and coordinated directly between the US Army Europe Blood Bank and the Bavarian Red Cross to acquire the life-saving blood products. He agrees that training is key. "I have trained for this type of event all of my career. When this happened, the training came back and took over. It is great to be a member of a trained medical team who knew their jobs and their responsibilities. It was a total team effort to help this soldier survive this ordeal. The blood bank staff is civilian, active duty and reserve. It is also a joint team in that we have enlisted Air Force technicians in our lab."
Pell, (the blood program consultant), added that there is no shortage of blood in the Department of Defense blood bank system in Europe, and that loyal US blood donors stationed here should continue to support the program through regular donations when a blood drive is held at their installation.
"This was an extreme exception and the blood inventories throughout EUCOM are more than adequate to support ongoing daily operations to include surges of patients," Pell said. "A special thanks should go to the staff at LARMC Transfusion Service and the USAREUR Blood Donor Center as well as the medical evacuation crew who flew the mission. They provided selfless support during an especially critical event. Without their commitment to accomplishment of mission and their cooperative efforts with the clinical and surgical host nation staffs, the patients they supported may not have survived."