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Vidant Health announced today that EastCare has become one of the first medical flight programs in North Carolina to carry O-negative whole blood, which will help improve patient survivability in eastern North Carolina. 

Whole blood contains all the components of blood the body loses during trauma events and helps replenish all necessary blood components.

“Vidant Health serves a vast rural environment with long distances in between towns and sometimes between providers,” said Chuck Strickland, EastCare outreach coordinator. “Trauma patients often need immediate treatment, and that’s what the O-negative whole blood allows us to do. Helicopters carrying O-negative whole blood can increase the chance of survivability of trauma patients in eastern North Carolina while being transported from these rural areas to hospitals.”

O-negative is the rarest blood type and compatible with all other blood types, making it an important life-saving intervention for those suffering from serious traumatic events. 

EastCare collaborated with the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University to obtain the O-negative whole blood from the American Red Cross.

Recent studies show that patients who receive whole blood products early typically require less blood transfusions while in the hospital.

This may also improve 24-hour patient survival by 23 percent and reduce the patient’s length of stay, according to a recent study.

“O-negative whole blood is vitally important to our collective mission because it is a universal donor,” said Dr. Darla Liles, ECU professor of medicine and chair of the Vidant Patient Blood Management Committee. “This blood can be administered quickly in the field when a patient has suffered a serious trauma and is bleeding too rapidly to make it back to the hospital. Our Vidant patient blood management committee is thrilled to work with EastCare to create this unique program, which has the potential to save lives here in eastern North Carolina.”

O-negative whole blood is carried on all five EastCare helicopters and can be utilized on ground ambulances as needed. 

In addition to the whole blood innovation, EastCare will continue to carry fresh plasma and packed red blood cells.