Military blood program surges into the future
Army Sgt. Preston Campbell, donates for the low titer type O whole blood program at the Kendrick Memorial Blood Center on Fort Gordon, Georgia. (Courtesy photo)
FORT GORDON, Ga. — Military medical professionals know their field is uniquely dynamic, that innovation and flexibility are essential to saving lives in a forward setting, and that combat casualty care can lead to revolutionary approaches to healthcare off the battlefield, too. This is especially true for the collection and transfusion of blood products. From glass bottles to durable plastic bags and beyond, the Armed Services Blood Program has advanced the accessibility of blood products to the wounded warrior.
Kendrick Memorial Blood Center, here, is named after Army Maj. Gen. Douglas B. Kendrick, an innovator who helped shape the Army’s blood program during World War II. KMBC is one of 20 military blood collection sites.
Kendrick Memorial Blood Center personnel travel to military installations in Georgia and South Carolina collecting blood donations. Then they process and ship those donations into theater as well as to the Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Georgia, and other military medical facilities. That mission in itself is quite an undertaking, especially since KMBC is the Army’s top collecting facility, but they do much more than regular blood collection.
The blood donor center also collects apheresis platelets and plasma, provides service to EAMC patients who need to give blood for therapeutic reasons or for their own use during surgery, and participates in several cutting-edge projects to supply specialized blood products to special operations commands.
One of those projects is working with the local 75th Ranger Regiment on bringing universally safe whole blood to far forward settings, available right at the point of injury. Low titer type O whole blood is a special type of blood donation. “Whole blood” means the blood donation isn’t separated into red blood cells and plasma, and “low titer” refers to low levels of antibodies that could cause a reaction in a patient of a different blood type.
The Ranger O Low Titer, or ROLO, program involves prescreening personnel prior to deployment to determine their suitability as a universal donor. While deployed in a remote location, pre-identified Rangers could serve as a walking blood bank, able to give the safest, most effective blood product possible with the aid of a medic, even if they aren’t near a combat support hospital or other major facility.
Fort Gordon’s team began conducting screening drives with the 1st Ranger Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, in 2016, testing hundreds for participation in the program. In March 2017, they added another component of combat care by collecting and shipping low titer O whole blood into theater weekly, in addition to the regular shipments of red blood cells and plasma.
Having whole blood ready to transfuse increases the available inventory for Rangers and gives them other options besides having the assault force as the only source for safe, universal whole blood.
“This is a great product that will certainly help save lives of our service members,” said Navy Capt. Roland Fahie, director of the Armed Services Blood Program. “By expanding this program and making it a true tri-service effort, we are able to increase the amount of low titer type O whole blood we are producing which, of course, equates to more lives saved.”
Eisenhower Army Medical Center Chief of Blood Services Army Lt. Col. Melanie Sloan helped bring operational support for the ROLO and low titer O whole blood programs online at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 2015 and Fort Gordon in 2016.
“Our CENTCOM customers count on us to provide the best possible product and to make sure they have what they need, when and where they need it,” she said. “That’s why we’re here.”
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