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Navy 'docs' save Marine's life

10 May 2003 | Sgt. David Christian

Navy corpsmen with Alpha Surgical Company, First Force Service Support Group, donated three units of their own blood to help save the life of a critically injured Marine during Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 21.

The Marine stepped on a land mine in Iraq and suffered significant shrapnel wounds to both his legs and upper right arm. He was quickly flown to Alpha Surgical Company at Camp Okinawa, Kuwait, for medical treatment.

The Navy surgeons were able to save the Marine's left leg and right arm, but the wounds to his right leg were severe enough to require a partial amputation.

"During the time it took to get him here, he had significant amounts of blood loss," said Cmdr. Douglas Carbine of San Diego, and head of the ICU, Alpha Surgical Co.  "He had already received six units of red blood cells. But the problem with that is when you bleed, you're not only loosing red blood cells; you're also losing clotting factors. Without more clotting factors, you will continue to bleed."

When the Marine arrived at the ICU, his bleeding was controlled, his wounds were dressed, and his blood pressure was stable.
When the Marine woke up from his anesthesia, he was stable enough to hold a conversation with the sailors.

About an hour later, the corpsmen noticed blood dripping onto his cot. In the next 15 minutes the Marine started to groan, and his dressings were starting to soak with blood. His body temperature also dropped to about 91 degrees. "At that time, the chief of professional services suggested we activate the Walking Blood Bank," Carbine said.

The Walking Blood Bank is a potential source of blood that can be taken from nearby personnel who have the same blood type as the patient.

The advantage of the Walking Blood Bank is that the whole blood drawn from the sailors contains the clotting factors needed to help the patient stop bleeding and it is warm.
Although the concept is not new, most surgical companies do not employ a Walking Blood Bank.

Lieutenant Commander Tony Castillos of San Diego and ICU physician with Alpha Surgical Co., gathered blood samples from the vast majority of all medical personnel that would be deployed with their unit before they left Camp Pendleton, Calif.

"He set up the protocol beforehand, which enabled this whole process to work so quickly," Carbine said. "I think using the Walking Blood Bank was faster than if we would have medically evacuated him out."
It took less than an hour before the first unit of whole blood was available for the wounded Marine.

"It was magic," Carbine said.
As soon as the Marine was given his first unit of whole blood, both his blood pressure and temperature stabilized. By the third unit, his heart rate was normal, and he was awake and talking.

"I am convinced that the Walking Blood Bank saved this Marine's life," Carbine said.
Unit News Archive
1st Marine Logistics Group