CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea — The medics of 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, are learning a life-saving measure that was first used in the Korean War 69 years ago – whole blood transfusion on the battlefield.
Whole blood transfusions are basically the drawing of blood directly from a donor and then transfusing it right into the recipient. The transfusion of warm, whole blood serves two factors: it has the ability to help a patient clot and is able to help warm them at the same time. One of the biggest killers outside of the wound itself is hypothermia.
Sgt. Barbara Allen, the treatment non-commissioned officer-in-charge for 2nd Bn., 7th Cav. Regt., attended the Eighth U.S. Army’s Walking Blood Bank and transfusion train the trainer class. The course breaks down the intricacies of how to blood type and screen donors as well as the particulars of the Korean Peninsula program called STUD-K (Special Forces).
“The class was informative and comprehensive,” she said. “I was given all I needed to be able to come back and teach my medics and my staff personnel and my 11 Bravos (infantrymen) how to type the blood and then draw and transfuse it.”
To help facilitate the process, the screening starts with the STUD-K program, which types and screens the blood for everything necessary to limit any possible reaction by a recipient. The donor is then given a card, which the medic can use to ensure compatibility and suitability.
“My goal is to have everyone in 2-7 typed and screened and then add their information to a spreadsheet,” Allen said. “That will enable us to be able to look at the casualty and identify blood type and find a good match quickly.”
Allen has taught two classes on the procedure, all of them to medics. It starts with a comprehensive overview of the program and how it works, followed by a demonstration of the process. During the demonstration, a class participant draws the blood from the donor and then returns it via transfusion to the same person.
For Spc. Ian Truitt, a medic with Company C, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, this class is one more tool in his tool bag. “We’re in Charlie Med, and we consider ourselves among some of the best, and we are going to go back and teach our Soldiers in the company as well as those in the unit who are not medics about the walking blood bank program.”
Although the walking blood bank is primarily a tool for the battlefield, it can also be used in emergency situations following a training accident or mass casualty situation where time is of the essence. According to Allen, it could mean the difference between losing a foot or losing an entire leg.
“This isn’t something that, as a medic, you are typically trained in, but I can see the importance of knowing how to do this,” said Spc. Tyler Hackworth, a medic with Co. C, 215th BSB.
“Especially across a major battlefield where you may be all that is standing between whether a Soldier lives or dies.”
It takes about 10-12 minutes to draw the blood from the donor. The medic can then hook up the bag directly to the IV of the patient and start the transfusion.
“So in less than 15 minutes, the casualty can be receiving the fresh whole blood,” said Allen. “I can collect and transfuse the blood right in the back of a Bradley if necessary.”