Using wartime strategies to save lives

Health Watch

It can be the toughest of situations, working on the wounded in a war zone or combat field hospital. The injuries can be devastating. Now, techniques used there are being incorporated back here at home. The result, more lives are being saved.

Jimmy Manzanares remembers the exact moment his life changed.

“A truck hauling some trailers pulled out in front of us,” Manzanares recalled.

His leg trapped in the twisted metal of his delivery truck.

Manzanares shared, “I just remember asking, do I still have my leg? Do I still have my leg?”

Warren Dorlac, MD, trauma surgeon at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies explained to Ivanhoe, “By the time he arrived to us, he probably lost anywhere between 30, 40 percent of his blood volume.”

Trauma surgeon Warren Dorlac uses whole blood to treat trauma patients like Jimmy.

“Whole blood is basically the blood that we would pull out of your body right now,” clarified Dr. Dorlac.

A retired colonel, Dr. Dorlac says whole blood dates back to treating soldiers in WWI. Today, most trauma patients receive component therapy. That means donated blood is broken down.

“So, we would give you a certain number of red cells, we might add some plasma into that. And then we might throw in some platelets,” illustrated Dr. Dorlac.

But severe trauma patients need it all.

“If I have someone that has hemorrhagic shock and has had a large amount of blood loss, then really I want to give them back whole blood,” Dr. Dorlac shared.

Whole blood improves coagulation, reduces exposure to multiple donors which decreases the risk of infections and blood related diseases. As for Jimmy, with five surgeries down, a few more to go, he’s taking it step by step.

“I’m just fortunate to be alive. I’m just glad to be alive,” Manzanares revealed.

Most whole blood donors are type O, which is a universal donor and can be used on any patient, no matter their blood type. Whole blood units go through a 48-hour testing period and can be refrigerated up to 21 days. The shelf life for traditional donated blood is 42 days.

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