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Medics overcome shortage through aeromedical evacuation

7/27/2005 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- U.S. Air Force aeromedical evacuation teams coordinated the first airlift for the transfusion of blood platelets for two patients in Iraq and Afghanistan recently.

Medics saved a Soldier diagnosed with a rare and rapidly growing cancer and ensured a Jordanian servicemember survived a flight home, both needing a transfusion of blood platelets before their flights.

“Blood platelets cannot be transported over long distances due to their fragility,” said Maj. Barbara Martin, aeromedical evacuation control team chief in the Combined Air Operations Center.

“The (Soldier) needed to be immediately transported out of theater for definitive care, but his blood counts were significantly lower than the safe limits recommended for airlift,” she said. “Transfusion of platelets was critical to ensure safe flight risk to move the patient overseas.”

The patient was not at a location where platelets were available, so he was airlifted to the Air Force Theater Hospital in Iraq, infused with blood product, and stabilized for continued travel out of the theater.

“The patient’s condition wouldn’t have tolerated a direct flight and likely would have deteriorated significantly,” Major Martin said.

Likewise, the Jordanian also needed a transfusion of platelets before flying, but licensed blood platelets are not available in Afghanistan, Major Martin said.

The Jordanian was suffering from a massive brain hemorrhage from a severe blood platelet disorder. Accompanied by a Jordanian physician, he was moved by C-130 Hercules to a U.S. Army field hospital in Afghanistan.

“While doctors there stabilized the patient, two governments went to great lengths to get a dedicated C-17 (Globemaster III) on tap to fly this urgent aeromedical evacuation mission to Jordan,” Major Martin said.

Because of the lack of platelets in Afghanistan, the 440th Army Blood Supply Unit at Bagram Air Base was on standby to collect whole blood from volunteer donors containing active platelets to stabilize the patient.

With a critical-care air transport team on the C-17 providing fixed-facility intensive care treatment, he survived the flight.



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