Native Air Emergency Air Medical Service Now Carries  Life-Saving Whole Blood


Improving patient outcomes by transfusing donated whole blood to save lives in the air 

Roswell, NM, March 21, 2024 – The Native Air bases in Roswell and Carlsbad are proud to announce they now carry and can administer whole blood onboard every air medical transport. Having whole blood aboard their helicopter and fixed-wing planes allows their industry-leading trauma clinicians to provide additional life-saving care when every minute counts.  

“The preferred product when resuscitating a patient with a traumatic injury involving hemorrhage is whole blood,” said Evelyn Denisse Thompson, flight nurse with Native Air 29 in Carlsbad. “Positive outcomes are greater when the patient receives all of the blood components at the same time versus receiving them separately. We are grateful for the opportunity to carry whole blood and even more grateful to those who donate.”      

Receiving blood during pre-hospital care is critical for patients suffering from trauma or hemorrhagic shock. It is particularly valuable in rural areas where there may be limited access to donated blood. Since Native Air carries its own blood supply, its clinicians can administer it in-flight while preserving hospital stock. The crews previously carried packed red blood cells and plasma, and are excited to now carry whole blood which contains red and white blood cells, platelets, and plasma in one unit, providing additional clotting factors that aren’t present in packed red blood cells and plasma alone. Whole blood can also be administrered more quickly since all of the components are present in one bag.   

A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons found that whole blood transfusions improve the 30-day survival rate of patients suffering from hemorrhagic shock by 60 percent. The earlier patients receive whole blood, the better their outcomes, showing the significance of pre-hospital transfusion. Moderately to severely injured patients, including those with head injuries, particularly benefit from whole blood transfusions.  

“Carrying whole blood on board means the people in the communities we serve have access to an even better lifesaving intervention than we had before,” said Jim Burt, account executive with Air Methods, the leading air medical service provider in the nation and the parent company of Native Air. “Due to our rural terrain and often harsh conditions, whole blood is the gold standard for the type of injuries we see.”    

According to the National Institutes of Health, the ability to separate blood into its different components was developed in 1940, and it became more common to administer blood products due, in part, to the improved ability to store them. However, blood components don’t carry oxygen as well as whole blood, and during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq the military brought whole blood transfusion back into favor. Doctors found that using warm whole blood allowed trauma patients to recover faster and live longer. Additionally, using universal, low-titer type O whole blood is not only safe in both children and adults, but it also eliminates the time needed to test patients for blood type when every minute counts in an emergency.     

All Native Air clinicians have at least three years of experience in an emergency or intensive care setting before joining a flight crew. They receive ongoing advanced training, and every nurse and paramedic has access to Air Methods Ascend, an in-person and online training program that allows clinicians to perform at the top of their licensure. Air Methods Ascend is available to medical personnel across the country.