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Oklahoma Blood Institute working to fill air ambulances with O-negative blood

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Air ambulances are often the first line of treatment for Oklahomans who suffer traumatic injuries during an accident.

Officials estimate the state's fleet of air ambulances make more than 2,000 flights a year, but they want them to be prepared for everything.

Right now, only one of Oklahoma's 23 air ambulances has a full supply of O-negative blood.

Oklahoma Blood Institute officials said that’s just not acceptable and they’re on a mission to get more O-negative donors.

Many Air Evac life teams fly with just one unit of O-negative blood, but OBI is working to make sure each flight has at least two units of O-negative on board at all times.

“Pre-hospital care of a trauma victim is absolutely vital in the chain of survival,” said Dr. John Armitage, OBI president and CEO.

O-negative is especially needed because it is considered the universal donor.

“O-negative is the only blood type that can be given to every person without fear of cross reaction,” said Dr. Jason Lees, OU Medical Center trauma surgeon.

Ty Kiser knows the life-saving benefits of O-negative blood.

“I said 'I think I’ve been shot.' And, I pulled down my shirt, and I had a little bullet hole and there was a lot of blood,” Ty said.

He received more than 70 units of blood back in 2011 after being shot in a hunting accident.

Two of those units were on board the air ambulance that flew him from Sulphur to Oklahoma City.

“Had he not received that O-negative blood in Sulphur, he would not be here today,” said Ty’s mom, Sissy Kiser.

Ty now shares his story to encourage potential donors.

The bullet that pierced his lung hangs around his neck as an ever present reminder.

“To remind me every day that I almost died,” Ty said.

Now, those who see trauma every day want every one of the ambulances in the sky to be fully stocked and prepared to save other Oklahoma lives when seconds count.

OBI officials said they would need 1,000 extra donations to meet their goal.

If you don’t know your blood type, you can stop by any blood drive or blood donation center to find out.