Oklahoma Blood Institute aims to raise level of Oklahoma emergency care

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How can we provide the best possible emergency care to trauma victims in our state?

The Oklahoma Blood Institute (OBI) says there’s a simple answer to this critical question. The solution is to increase our state’s supply of O-negative blood.

“O-negative blood is a universal life saver because anyone can receive it,” said Dr. John Armitage, OBI’s president and CEO. “First responders equipped with O-negative blood can begin treatment immediately without concern for a patient’s blood type.”

When emergency personnel can start blood transfusions during transport to a hospital, a trauma victim’s chances of survival increase.

The problem, OBI officials say, is that only one Oklahoma air ambulance carries a full supply of O-negative blood. Transporting critical trauma patients by air ambulance can save precious time, but too often these emergency transports take to the sky without the supply of vital O-negative blood needed to stabilize and treat a traumatic injury.

Of Oklahoma’s 23 air ambulances, only one flies with the recommended two units of O-negative blood. Eighteen transport patients with only one unit of O-negative and one unit of O-positive. Four Oklahoma air ambulances must make due with no blood at all. When O-negative blood is unavailable, trauma patients often receive a saline solution instead.

OBI wants to set a higher standard of emergency care for Oklahoma trauma victims by fully stocking each Oklahoma air ambulance with two units of O-negative so that this life-saving blood available at every scene, every time.

To reach this goal, OBI is calling on all Oklahomans with O-negative blood type to help fill this serious need.

“It is critical to our communities that our neighbors receive the highest standard of emergency care,” said Armitage. “We have highly-skilled emergency responders treating trauma victims at the scene and world-class doctors and nurses in our emergency rooms. They are trained to save lives but their hands are often tied because the blood their patients need is unavailable.”

O-negative blood is highly beneficial because anyone can receive it, regardless of their own blood type. Although anyone can receive it, only a few are born with it.

According to Armitage, only 9 percent of the population is O-negative.

“The need is great,” he said, “but the supply is not.”

Blood donors may not be paramedics but, when they give, they can be on the scene with emergency personnel.

“When you donate blood, especially O-negative blood, you are there, with paramedics when needed most,” Armitage said. “Our goal is for Oklahoma’s air ambulances to carry a full supply of O-negative blood to each emergency call. We want blood available at every scene, every time.”

Headquartered in Oklahoma City, OBI is the ninth-largest nonprofit blood center in the United States. Each day, its staff recruits an average of 1,100 volunteer blood donors to save lives across the state. Patients in 161 Oklahoma hospitals and air ambulance services, including all hospitals in central Oklahoma, rely exclusively on blood provided through Oklahoma’s locally-led blood center. OBI employs 700 staff and is the state’s largest biotechnology organization.

OBI blood donation centers are located in Oklahoma City, Ada, Ardmore, Edmond, Enid, Lawton, Norman and Tulsa. To schedule an appointment to donate or find a blood drive in your area, call 877-340-8777 or visit www.obi.org.

Sponsored by the Oklahoma Blood Institute.

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