Trauma Surgeons Lead Charge to Equip Ambulances with Lifesaving Blood

Dr. John Holcomb (University of Alabama at Birmingham)

A group of former military trauma surgeons, self-described as the “whole blood mafia,” are on a mission to make whole blood available in ambulances and rescue vehicles across the United States. Led by Dr. John Holcomb, a retired U.S. Army Colonel with extensive combat experience, these doctors aim to revolutionize trauma care and potentially save tens of thousands of lives each year.

Despite ample research supporting the use of whole blood transfusions in emergency situations, only 1% of rescue services in the U.S. currently carry blood. The primary obstacle is a lack of insurance reimbursement for blood administered outside of hospitals. However, the trauma surgeons remain undeterred, working tirelessly to persuade communities to adopt this lifesaving practice.

San Antonio has become a model for the nation, with a novel approach to overcoming the financial hurdles. The city or county pays the upfront cost of blood and refrigeration units, and unused blood can be exchanged at no cost. This system has saved an estimated 2,000 lives since its inception.

Dr. Holcomb, now a professor at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, reflected on his experiences in Somalia and the soldiers who could have been saved with more readily available blood. “Nobody comes home from the battlefield the same. We all come home different in some way,” he said in an interview with NBC News. “And I think one of the things that many docs, nurses and medical students do is they take that experience and try to turn some good.”

Read the complete story by Cynthia McFaddenKevin Monahan and Alexandra Chaidez from NBC News: Ex-military surgeons embrace new mission: stop Americans from bleeding to death

Watch the video news story:

A group of former military trauma surgeons, nurses and paramedics are calling for first responders to carry blood on rescue vehicles. Doctors say tens of thousands of lives could be saved. NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden reports.

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