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CCFR first in the state to carry blood on board ambulances

Colleton County Fire-Rescue is the first county entity in South Carolina to carry whole blood on its ambulances, creating a new way to save more lives.
Ambulances with Colleton County Fire-Rescue currently carry IV fluids. However, these fluids don’t carry oxygen into the blood. The IV fluids also don’t assist in clotting, whereas blood does. These are critical and life-saving actions in an emergency.
“Our having whole blood on board will save more lives,” said Barry McRoy, director and chief of Colleton County Fire-Rescue (CCFR). The CCFR is the sole paramedic and firefighting entity that saturates all of Colleton County.
According to McRoy, the county’s medical helicopter has been carrying blood on board for about 1.5 years. “Paramedics were able to provide this life-saving ability on the helicopter, so we saw no reason why we couldn’t provide in on the ambulances,” he said.
The process of getting whole blood onboard local ambulances has been long and cumbersome.
Colleton County Fire-Rescue first had to petition S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to begin the year-long pilot project. Since there was no protocol or blueprint in place, Colleton County Fire-Rescue had to create its own.
The actual proposal began nearly one year ago, in January of 2019.
Officials with CCFR went to S.C.DHEC and presented their idea. As the months passed, fire-rescue received three unanimous votes of approval from three different DHEC committees.
Colleton County Council also approved of the project, giving fire-rescue the necessary $30,000 to fund the one-year pilot project. This money was needed to buy new and necessary equipment, such as blood warmers to warm the blood before giving it to a person in need. Additionally, special refrigerators also had to be purchased to house the blood.
“The blood itself is also very expensive,” said McRoy.
According to him, blood can cost as much as $400 per unit. For this project, CCFR will purchase blood from The Blood Connection, a company that collects blood locally and then distributes it locally.
Also, as part of getting this program going, paramedics with Colleton County Fire-Rescue had to receive additional training.
“As part of the project application processes, which included various state committees and doctors, there were 25-35 patients who would have been benefitted from having whole blood on board ambulances in Colleton County,” said McRoy.
Now that all is approved, fire rescue’s carrying whole blood onboard its ambulances will last for one year in Colleton County. It begins in January of 2020.
During this yearlong project, officials with Colleton County Fire-Rescue must provide quarterly reports to S.C. DHEC. Any successes and any obstacles must also be reported immediately. “Since we are being used to make a footprint for this type of protocol, everything must be documented,” said McRoy.
The project will begin by putting whole blood on five of the county’s ambulances during 2020. In all, CCFR runs nine ambulances in Colleton County.
“When the pilot project is over, and we prove this works, we may put it on all of our ambulances,” he said. “We will ask for full compliance to do this program as part of our routine protocols.”
The entire idea behind the project began when CCFR leaders took a hard look at what people needed in emergencies in Colleton County. They also looked at hospitals closest to Colleton County: hospitals that have trauma centers are often the go-to place for those in the most need. There are two trauma center hospitals close to Colleton County: Trident in North Charleston and MUSC in downtown Charleston.
Depending on where you are coming from in Colleton County, Trident is approximately 40 minutes away, and MUSC is roughly 50 minutes away.
“The whole point is these trauma centers meet that criteria have multiple specialty physicians who are at the hospital and who are ready to go to work when you hit the door. A lot of places don’t have that, so this is a huge benefit to people in our area who need it,” said McRoy.
McRoy said the physicians at the two area trauma centers had given CCFR full support of this pilot program. As a consequence, they have also begun carrying whole blood in their trauma centers.
Specifically, CCFR’s whole-blood pilot program was created and pushed by Joey Campbell, a battalion chief with Colleton County Fire-Rescue. Campbell spearheaded the project. Additionally, Colleton County Fire Rescue’s Medical Control Physician, Dr. Adam Mandel, also helped to create the project, as did Assistant Chief Marty Stallings, Deputy Chief Dr. David Greene and McRoy.

Heather Walters (1678 Posts)