When a person is injured and losing blood, that first hour of emergency care is crucial. The ability of the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) to now carry blood on board its helicopters means a person can begin receiving that precious lifesaving fluid before reaching the hospital.

STARS Air Ambulance

STARS Air Ambulance

On June 9, 2014, Saskatoon Health Region’s Transfusion Lab staff began sending two units of O negative blood to the STARS Saskatoon base. The blood is securely enclosed in a six kilogram insulated thermal cooler with a monitoring device to ensure proper temperature. If it isn’t used within 72 hours, it is returned to the hospital, inspected to ensure quality then made available to other patients.

“We know how important it is for people to begin receiving blood after a traumatic injury and the difference it can make in saving a life,” says Dr. Karen Dallas, Transfusion Medicine Specialist, Saskatoon Health Region.   “When it became possible for STARS to begin carrying blood on board, we wanted to support the initiative to ensure patients are getting the care they need before they get to the hospital.”

Saskatoon is the third STARS base to provide blood on board following Regina and Calgary.

“In trauma, blood can make the difference between life and death.  It is inspiring to see Saskatchewan leading the way by providing our citizens this game changing roadside treatment that very few other services in North America provide,” says Dr. John Froh, Transport Physician and Medical Director, for STARS in Saskatoon. “Our new ability to give blood is a powerful complement to our established clinical strategy of highly trained air medical crews providing critical care while rapidly transporting the severely injured trauma patient to our provincial trauma centres for definitive care.”

STARS are the first medical service in Canada to begin stocking blood for life saving transfusions on air medical flights. It has two bases in Saskatchewan, one in Saskatoon and the other in Regina.

Saskatoon Health Region has two trauma centres that serve the northern half of the province located at Royal University Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital. It also operates Saskatchewan Air Ambulance Lifeguard service which is the country’s oldest non-military air medical transport program.