For the first time ever, Cornwall Air Ambulance is carrying blood on board the helicopter, giving the critical care team the option to start emergency transfusions before a patient even reaches the hospital.
Within just three days of the service launching, 17-year-old Zack Hancock received an emergency transfusion on the roadside following a serious road traffic collision at St Tudy, which left him with life-threatening injuries.
Donna Jewell, Zack’s mother, said:
“To see Zack lying on the road with so many people working on him was awful, he was unrecognisable. Police told me to say goodbye to him, they didn’t think he would survive the journey to hospital. Without this service, I would not have a son. The care he received from everyone has been amazing.”
Zack was airlifted to Derriford Hospital on December 4; he spent the next 11 days in a coma. Despite significant internal injuries, along with broken bones in his face, arms and legs, Zack is back home in Bodmin and recovering well from the incident.
The introduction of the service is a collaboration with the blood transfusion service at Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust, South Western Ambulance Service and Cornwall Blood Bikes. The project has been funded by the Henry Surtees Foundation.
Cornwall Air Ambulance critical care paramedics underwent a rigorous training process to be able to administer transfusions, which was overseen by the charity’s doctors.
Paul Maskell, Trainee Critical Care Paramedic with Cornwall Air Ambulance, was one of the crew who helped Zack. He said: “Zack sustained multiple injuries, he had lost a lot of blood and was very poorly when we arrived at the scene. He was the first person to be able to benefit from this lifesaving intervention on the roadside in Cornwall, it’s amazing to see the difference it can make.
“By teaming up with RCHT and Cornwall Blood Bikes, we have significantly enhanced the level of service we can provide to our patients. It is an exciting development and a proud moment for the charity.”
The blood is transported daily from Royal Cornwall Hospital to the Cornwall Air Ambulance airbase in Newquay thanks to volunteer riders from Cornwall Blood Bikes.
Jayne Penlerick, Chair of Cornwall Blood Bikes, said: “This project has been in discussion and planning for a great length of time now, and it is truly wonderful to see such a partnership being formed during the most challenging times of this COVID-19 crisis. We are absolutely delighted and so thankful to be included in the support that has been received from the Henry Surtees Foundation in the form of our new BMW 1250 RTP motorbike to aid our delivery of this service, with our riders ensuring that the blood gets to the airbase, 365 days a year in all winds and weathers. All the volunteers at Cornwall Blood Bikes are immensely proud to be supplying Blood on Board to Cornwall Air Ambulance, and to be part of this project which will assist with better patient outcomes for the people of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.”
Dr Ian Sullivan, Blood Transfusion Manager for the RCHT, said: “Blood loss is a major factor in the survival of trauma patients, and having blood available at the scene of an incident will undoubtedly save more lives. The Blood Transfusion department at the Royal Cornwall Hospital was delighted to work with other organisations and charities to come together to provide a lifesaving treatment that was not previously available.”