Social Networking and Blood Transfusions.

Social Networking and Blood Transfusions.

From the RAMC Muniment Collection in the care of the Wellcome Library. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Image obtained from:

One of the more interesting things about starting this project has been the networking that is associated with trying to promote it. Honestly, I am a terrible net-worker. I don’t really like social media, am terrible and staying in contact with friends and family, am bad at remembering names, and for as long as I have been in the Special Operations community don’t really know that many people. I am very comfortable in my own bubble. On the other hand, my wife is a natural at this sort of thing and over the last 15 plus years, I have always marveled at how easily she communicates and stays in contact with people. She has never met a stranger, can talk to anyone and is a very special lady. I am very, very lucky… Anyway, putting stories out there and writing is something that I always wanted to do but it does not come as naturally as I thought it would and definitely pushes me outside of my comfort zone. Which brings me back to networking. As I started trying to get the word out, I began connecting and re-connecting with a lot of people that I have not seen or spoken to in years and more often than not, I see or read something that they share that is really good and very interesting. For today’s article I cannot take credit for finding this story, it came from a friend on LinkedIn but I thought that it was interesting and relevant enough to share here.

As most of you know, I have taught Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) for more than 10 years and served as an 18D, Special Forces Medic. I went to the qualification course, which we simply called the Q-course, right after 9-11.  I was actually PCSing (Permanent Change of Station) to Ft. Bragg when the planes hit the towers. I will not bore you with the entire story but when I began the medical training portion of the q-course I was lucky enough to be right on the cusp of a transition in how medicine was being taught to service members. No longer were they basing most of the instruction on civilian protocols developed for paramedics. We were being ‘raised’ in combat medicine and the birth of TCCC as we know it. One of the really cool things we were taught at the time was how to conduct blood transfusions.

There is no substitute for actual blood in your body when it comes to trauma medicine. IV’s and IV fluid are nice but they simply do not have the oxygen carrying capability that red blood cells do. Transfusions were not really that hard in the grand scheme of things but there was a bit of a mental hurdle to get over to actually doing it. There definitely could be some complications. This was not something that was pushed out to the fleet…until now. As I was cruising though some of the latest posts on LinkedIn I noticed this article shared by a friend about the ‘Valkyrie’ blood transfusion system. Make no mistake, this will save lives. The article, from USNI News, states:

Front-line expeditionary forces are getting a new capability that officials say will save lives by enabling small units to have an emergency, on-demand, fresh blood supply to treat battlefield casualties.

The new capability – the Emergency Fresh Whole Blood program, or “Valkyrie,” as it’s known by Marines and sailors with the task force – is being used for the first time this year by conventional forces in the Middle East, according to the Marine Corps. Army units began using a similar program for the first time in Afghanistan earlier this year.

My inner nerd gets so excited and tingly when reading things like this! Medicine, and treating people, is not something that anyone should be scared of and seeing this type of training passed down and pushed out is great in so many ways. I have always been a big believer in cross-training, or learning the skills of others, and this capability is no exception. (Except communications, that is pure voodoo and it is something that I absolutely could never understand. I have no idea why, but nothing they attempted to teach me ever really stuck.) The article continues:

The lightweight kit puts life-delivering blood transfusion capability in the hands of “Platoon Docs” and trained Marines with small units that suffer casualties but aren’t near higher-echelon trauma care equipped with larger blood and plasma supplies. So a rifle squad caught in a remote mountain ambush, a refueling team on an island airstrip or an expeditionary fires crew in a remote desert – much in line with the Marine Corps’ vision of future missions in an Expeditionary Air Base Operations environment – can collect and transfuse blood to a wounded Marine or sailor quickly, helping stabilize the casualty before a truck or helicopter arrives to evacuate to a battalion aid station or surgical team.

I am not going to use this article as a jump off for a class on how to do this but I do believe that this is something everyone should be aware of even if you don’t require the skill. Just knowing that they are teaching it a huge acknowledgement of its potential.

Corpsman and Marines interested in the program go through a weeklong program, Madigan said. They get about 12 hours of classroom instruction and intravenous practice, and the rest of the week is spent practicing by actually taking blood from donors. “Then we’ll put the same blood right back into the same donor,” he said. “So we can practice everything, the entire process, safely and easy.”

The article notes that each kits costs about $135 but you can find it here for less than $110. In the grand scheme of things this is a very inexpensive intervention that can have an enormous payoff as troops draw down and evacuation times increase.

Anyway, I thought it was a really good article about a capability that could definitely save lives. You should read the entire article and if you are really interested in blood transfusions you can go here to get a history lesson. Did you know that June 14 is blood donor day?

June 14 is World Blood Donor Day, a date selected to coincide with the birthday of Karl Landsteiner (1868–1943), the father of blood transfusions. Landsteiner discovered the A, B, AB, and O blood types in 1901, making blood transfusions safer. His work earned him the the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1930.1 The Word Health Organization (WHO) created this event to honor Dr. Landsteiner and to bring attention to the need for timely access to safe blood and blood products through voluntary donations.2

And don’t forget, it you have made it this far, please drop a comment in the space below and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss out on any of our goodness!

4 thoughts on “Social Networking and Blood Transfusions.

  1. Reply
    October 19, 2020 at 9:20 AM

    I’m curious, speaking of narratives and social media, why the story of Charles Drew is omitted both here and in your linked “history” of blood transfusions. His “bank” of blood is one of the most interesting and important chapters on the subject (given he saved so many in WWII yet himself died from a gruesome and violent accident surrounded with vehicle/movement safety controversy in America)… “at Columbia, he wrote a dissertation on ‘Banked Blood’ in which he described a technique he developed for the long-term preservation of blood plasma. Prior to his discovery, blood could not be stored for more than two days because of the rapid breakdown of red blood cells.”

    1. Reply
      Ron P. Schwery
      October 19, 2020 at 2:30 PM

      That is a really good story! He died not far from where I live. I thought that this was interesting also, “Drew had discovered that by separating the plasma (the liquid part of blood) from the whole blood (in which the red blood cells exist) and then refrigerating them separately, they could be combined up to a week later for a blood transfusion. He also discovered that while everyone has a certain type of blood (A, B, AB, or O) and thus are prevented from receiving a full blood transfusion from someone with different blood, everyone has the same type of plasma.”

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