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April 17, 2019


Rescue Team is One of Few to Carry Blood and Plasma in Wisconsin

April 17, 2019


Rescue Team is One of Few to Carry Blood and Plasma in Wisconsin

NEENAH, Wis. – At the onset of a trauma, every second matters. That’s why the ThedaStar Air Medical team began carrying blood and life-saving plasma on rescue flights, one of few rescue helicopters in Wisconsin to do so.

“Plasma is the part of blood that provides the clotting agent, which is vital in cases where patients experience rapid blood loss,” explained Pamela Witt-Hillen, ThedaStar Flight Nurse. “Blood donations are separated into red cells, plasma and platelets because different patients require different components.”

Traumatically injured patients—those who the ThedaStar team often responds to—die most often from hemorrhage, or loss of blood. The ThedaStar team began carrying red blood cells in 2009 followed by plasma in 2015 as the result of research showing the successful outcomes of administering blood and plasma in the field.

“It’s like jump-starting the care that usually starts in the emergency department,” Witt-Hillen said. “We can help reduce the risk of complications from hemorrhage and shock.”

While hospitals generally use fresh frozen plasma, it takes 40 minutes to thaw, which is not necessarily helpful in emergency situations where ThedaStar responds. Instead, they need to carry liquid plasma that has never been frozen. Witt-Hillen said most rescue flights aren’t able to carry blood or plasma because they are not based at hospitals and don’t have the resources to manage the blood safely.

“We can store blood at a constant temperature,” Witt-Hillen said. “We take it on every call where it may be useful.”

Flight nurses sign out blood and plasma from the hospital’s blood bank and carefully regulate its temperature throughout a trauma response.

Dr. Scott Harbick, ThedaStar Medical Director and Dr. David Schultz, Trauma Center Director, led training and implementation of the team’s ability to carry the blood and plasma on flights.

“Carrying the blood components is critical to being capable of providing the community with stronger pre-hospital emergency care,” Witt-Hillen said.

About a week after ThedaStar began carrying fresh blood, the team put the resource into use. The flight crew responded to the scene of a traumatic accident.

“The patient had very little blood volume left when we arrived, and if we hadn’t had the blood along, it’s likely he would have died,” Witt-Hillen said. “It’s a major responsibility to care for these patients, and having plasma as a resource is one more thing we can do to help save lives.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.