Blood Collectors Week: Dallas Police Ambush

Thoughts on the 7/7/2016 Dallas Police Ambush….

The first casualties arrived unannounced by the usual Trauma Activation Response Team (TART) pager.  The officers drove their own to our medical center in a squad car on its rims with bullet-ridden doors.  Immediately, the team called for two massive transfusion protocols, nicknamed “Trauma Tray”…5 red cells, 4 thawed plasma, and a platelet riding like a saddle bag on the outside of the cooler.  One officer expired in the trauma bay; the second officer headed to the OR for what would be 6 hours of surgery.

The trauma team called the transfusion service for three more universal trauma trays, to wait for more casualties.  In a matter of minutes, we provided 25 O red cells, 20 AB plasma, and 5 platelets.  Now we were out of AB plasma and starting to use A.  In the ED, one blood banker stood by the three coolers, as the head trauma surgeon’s request.  Later our handlebar-mustached trauma chief told us how reassured and comforted he felt to have the blood coolers in the ED ready for use.

Back in the transfusion service, we were told to expect 9 casualties.  We ordered more products from our primary supplier.  Soon our secondary supplier called to see what we needed.  We ordered over 400 additional products.  The timing of the event resulted in both the evening shift and night shifts on duty.  Half of the staff prepared products for the OR; half scanned in and confirmed types for the additional blood products arriving from the suppliers. Again and again more coolers were filled with type specific red cells, plasma, platelets, and cryo and delivered to the OR.  We resembled a fire brigade, handing off coolers as fast as we could fill them.  One of my most poignant memories will always be the extra called-in OR staff standing outside of the OR suite, some of them kneeling, as they watched the case, participating vicariously in every motion in the room.  That night, no one in the transfusion service went home, until the shooting stopped and the scene was secure.  Surgeries continued over the next few days.

Not knowing what to expect was difficult.  Thankfully, the number of seriously injured was minimal.  We were able to focus on the few who needed us the most.  Every one of those hundreds of units started with a willing donor and uniquely qualified staff that screened the donor and skillfully drew the raw material (whole blood) that would become the specialized life-saving products.  Teams of people prepared and labeled each product, stored it, and shipped it in the hour of need.  No one but another blood banker can fully appreciate how we got the job done during a brutal, senseless crisis on a long summer night.  Many blood drives followed the Dallas incident, but the products already on the shelf saved lives that night.

Ten days later, I lived through this again, in a different way, when the Baton Rouge officers were ambushed.  You see, Baton Rouge is my home town.

Patricia L. Williams, BS, MT(ASCP)SBB
Transfusion Service
Baylor University Medical Center
3500 Gaston Avenue | Caruth Laboratory Building L-210 | Dallas, Texas, 75246
214-820-3214 Office | 214-820-2087 Fax

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