Crawfordsville Fire Department becomes first fire department in the Midwest to administer whole blood

CRAWFORDSVILLE – Today, February 7, 2024, Crawfordsville Fire Department (CFD) Paramedics and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is picking up one unit of low titer O+ whole blood to become the first rural agency in the Midwest to administer whole blood on a ground ambulance.

This medical service is possible thanks to a strong partnership with Ascension St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, Versiti Blood Center of Indiana, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, and the Emergency Department of Franciscan Health.

Administering whole blood is an uncommon type of transfusion, though a critical one when treating patients in trauma situations who have lost large amounts of blood, which could lead to critical illness. By having access to the whole blood, the CFD Paramedics will provide critical care in trauma situations that most other rural EMS agencies do not have access to. A trauma patient who is bleeding not only loses red blood cells, which carry oxygen to vital organs, but they also lose platelets, which help the clotting process as well as their ability to maintain body heat. Whole blood will help replace lost red blood cells and platelets, giving patients a better chance of survival. A warmer in the ambulance allows paramedics to warm blood from 37 degrees Fahrenheit to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit in 11 seconds. Administering warm blood will help to increase the patient’s core temperature and avoid hypothermia.

“Crawfordsville Fire Department Paramedics will be delivering a critical care component that until now was only available by Helicopters or Hospitals in Central Indiana. This is just one more way that Crawfordsville Fire will be bringing lifesaving abilities to the patient within minutes of their incident,” says Captain Bryan Shaw.

In Montgomery County, an incident could occur anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour from the nearest trauma center. By administering the whole blood, paramedics can immediately provide vital care that typically takes up to an hour.

Deputy Chief Paul Miller

“It directly and quickly can impact our patients by saving their lives. This practice is the standard of care for trauma patients in the hospitals, it only makes sense to have this readily available for trauma patients on our ambulances before we transport them to the hospital,” says Deputy Chief Paul Miller. “The sooner we can administer the blood, the better outcome we have once the patient arrives at the hospital.”

CFD plans to have one unit of low titer O+ whole blood available at all times. If used, they will need to work with partner agencies at Ascension St. Vincent, Versiti, Indiana Department of Homeland Security, and Franciscan Health to replenish the unit.

Special thanks to Indiana EMS Chief Medical Director Dr. Eric Yazel, Crawfordsville Fire Department Medical Director Dr. Varun Koneru, and Ascension St. Vincent Emergency Room Director Stephanie Gardner.