South County Fire launches county’s first program to provide in-field blood transfusions

South County Fire Medical Services Officer Josh Stadler picks up one unit of whole blood at Providence Everett Medical Center.

South County Fire is the first fire agency in Snohomish County with the capability to provide lifesaving blood transfusions in the field.

“This is the most dramatic lifesaving and life-changing advance we’ve seen in a decade in emergency medical services for trauma patients,” said South County Fire Deputy Chief of Emergency Medical Services Shaughn Maxwell.

A medical services officer, dispatched to all critical medical emergencies in Southwest Snohomish County, carries the whole blood in a temperature-controlled cooler. In about 30 seconds, it can be heated to body temperature and administered to a patient with significant blood loss or internal bleeding.

This technology was developed by the military to provide blood transfusions on the battlefield to severely wounded soldiers. First responders here expect to treat traumatic injuries from car crashes and acts of violence and bleeding from serious medical conditions.

“This enhances our capability to save lives,” Maxwell said. “The whole blood provides oxygen to keep cells and organs from dying. It also has clotting components to help stop bleeding.”

In the first week of the program, South County Fire provided blood in the field to an adult struck by a car. Medics transported the patient the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. “They had a good outcome,” Maxwell said.

South County Fire modeled its program, protocols and training after systems that have been in use in King County, San Antonio and New Orleans for more than a year. It was developed in partnership with Providence Everett Medical Center’s trauma team and blood bank as well as Bloodworks Northwest, which supplies South County Fire with one unit of blood each week.

“Southwest Snohomish County is the ideal location for this program,” Maxwell said. We have two trauma centers within a 20-minute drive, but those 20 minutes are critical. Having the capability to provide blood in the field will save lives and reduce life-changing complications for patients with traumatic injuries and serious medical conditions.”

South County Fire provides fire and emergency medical services in unincorporated southwest Snohomish County, Brier, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, and starting in mid-December, Mill Creek.

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