By Erin Longacre, ASBP Blood Donor RecruiterMay 24, 2017
FORT GORDON, Ga. -- Military medical professionals know that their field is a uniquely dynamic one -- that innovation and flexibility are essential to saving lives in a forward setting, and that combat casualty care can lead to revolutionary approaches in healthcare off the battlefield as well. This is especially true for the collection and transfusion of blood products, and Fort Gordon, Ga., is proud to be on the forefront of the military's blood program.
Fort Gordon's blood center, one of 20 military blood collection sites, is named Kendrick Memorial Blood Center after Army Maj. Gen. Douglas B. Kendrick, an innovator who helped shape the Army's blood program during World War II. Kendrick would no doubt be proud to see his namesake center continuing his legacy by rapidly deploying a diverse range of lifesaving products into theater, wherever and whenever needed.
Kendrick Memorial Blood Center personnel travel to military installations in Georgia and South Carolina to collect blood donations. Then they process and ship those donations into theater, as well as to the Eisenhower Army Medical Center and other military medical facilities. In addition to its role as the Army's top blood collection facility, KMBC also collects apheresis platelets and plasma, provides service to Eisenhower Army Medical Center patients who need to give blood for therapeutic reasons or for their own use during surgery, and participates in several cutting-edge projects to supply specialized blood products to special operations commands.
One of those projects involves working with the 75th Ranger Regiment to bring universally safe whole blood to far forward settings, available right at the point of injury. Low titer type O whole blood is a special type of blood donation. ["Whole blood" means the blood donation isn't separated into red blood cells and plasma, and "low titer" refers to low levels of antibodies that could cause a reaction in a patient of a different blood type.]
The Ranger O Low Titer, or ROLO, program involves prescreening personnel prior to deployment to determine their suitability as a universal donor. While deployed in a remote location, pre-identified Rangers could serve as a walking blood bank -- someone able to give the safest, most effective blood product possible with the aid of a medic, even if they aren't near a combat support hospital or other major facility.
Fort Gordon's team began conducting screening drives with the 1st Ranger Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield in 2016, testing hundreds of Soldiers for potential participation in the program. In March 2017, KMBC added another component of combat care by collecting and shipping low titer O whole blood into theater weekly, in addition to the regular shipments of red blood cells and plasma.
Having whole blood ready to transfuse increases the available inventory for Rangers and gives them other options besides using the assault force as the only source for safe, universal whole blood.
Fort Gordon is one of four sites now providing whole blood for the program: three Army centers and one Air Force center. One Navy blood donor center is projected to come on board this month as well.
"This is a great product that will certainly help save lives of our service members," said Navy Capt. Roland Fahie, director of the Armed Services Blood Program. "By expanding this program and making it a true tri-service effort, we are able to increase the amount of low titer type O whole blood we are producing which, of course, equates to more lives saved."
Eisenhower Army Medical Center Chief of Blood Services was Lt. Col. Melanie Sloan, who helped bring operational support for the ROLO and low titer O whole blood programs online at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Fort Gordon, agrees with Fahie's positive assessment.
"Our CENTCOM customers count on us to provide the best possible product and to make sure they have what they need, when and where they need it," she said. "That's why we're here."