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July 21, 2011

Air ambulances should carry blood, says B.C. woman

CBC News

BRITISH COLUMBIA — The mother of a Kamloops, B.C., woman says an innovative new Australian ambulance program saved her daughter's life, and she's urging Canada to adopt the same technology.

Jen Condon was critically injured this spring in a head-on collision near Melbourne. Just four days before the crash, air ambulances in Australia started carrying blood on board, and the 23-year-old became the first person to receive a transfusion in the new program.

"[Jen] was the first person, they believe, in the world that received a blood transfusion by a paramedic, in the air," said Angie Condon, Jen's mother.

Condon is grateful her daughter survived the accident, which left her near death with a fractured skull, lacerated liver and broken pelvis.

"We just are so thankful," Condon said.

The Australian air ambulances are equipped with special fridges to transport blood, a notoriously volatile fluid.

Anthony De Wit with Australia's ambulance service said paramedics used to use saline fluids to stabilise patients or order blood to a scene, much the same way paramedics in B.C. currently do.

But he said carrying blood to the scene by air ambulance saves lives.

"So there's no loss of time, and it's proved very effective."

Condon is now urging Canada to adopt the same program that she says saved her daughter's life.

"It took 10 years and a lot of work in Australia to get to the point where they were able to carry blood — so it's not an easy or an inexpensive thing to do," she said. "I'm just hoping that if we publicize this a bit more, we can see this happen in Canada as well."

The B.C. Ambulance Service says it is aware of the program and may consider adopting it in the future.

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