Cork doctor completes Ireland’s first pre-hospital blood transfusion to critically ill patient

The protocol that allowed this roadside transfusion was drawn up by Dr Eoin Fogarty, based on the successful protocol used in Sydney.

Cork doctor completes Ireland’s first pre-hospital blood transfusion to critically ill patient

Most of the headlines relating to the Dunkettle interchange are about its delayed upgrade, but there has been more positive activity in the vicinity recently.

As motorists wove their way around that maze of lanes, they may have noted an ambulance parked up on the northside approach to the Jack Lynch tunnel.

Inside, a doctor was performing a procedure not previously part of the delivery of pre-hospital care in Ireland.

Drawing on training he underwent while working with the helicopter emergency services in Sydney, Australia, Dr Eoin Fogarty completed Ireland’s first-ever blood transfusion to a critically ill patient in a pre-hospital setting.

The patient, an older gentleman living in Glanmire, was then transferred to Cork University Hospital (CUH) where he was given additional blood. His health has since improved.

The protocol that allowed this roadside transfusion was drawn up by Dr Fogarty, based on the successful protocol used in Sydney.

The UCD graduate spent three years in Australia before returning in 2017 to work as an emergency medicine consultant at CUH.

“On the day in question, I was at CUH with Dr Hugh Doran when the National Ambulance Service (NAS) radioed in,” Dr Fogarty said.

They had a patient in Glanmire who was critically ill and they were preparing to transfer him

As luck would have it, Dr Doran has a special interest in pre-hospital emergency medicine. After collecting three units of O-negative blood from the blood transfusion lab at CUH, the two headed to a predetermined location - the Dunkettle interchange - to meet the ambulance crew who were attending to the man. The location meant the ambulance could travel through the tunnel and on to CUH.

Dr Fogarty transfused one unit of blood and the man was then transferred to CUH. The procedure took place two weeks ago.

Last week, following a motorcycle accident, Dr Fogarty again travelled to the scene with units of O negative but didn’t need to use them. Instead the man’s bloodtype was crossmatched at CUH and he was transfused with his own blood type. Dr Fogarty returned the O neg to the hospital as it is a particularly precious blood type.

Dr Fogarty said it was important to emphasise the procedure was only possible thanks to the collaboration of the NAS, the blood transfusion lab at CUH and volunteer doctors.

He said it is also important to emphasise that removing units of O neg blood from the hospital lab was a decision not taken lightly as it's the only universal blood type. This means people of any blood type can receive it which makes it vitally important in an emergency or when a patient's blood type is unknown.

“Only 8% of the population is O neg so one of the key messages is for people to donate. If somebody in hospital needs a transfusion in an emergency, and there isn’t time to cross-match, it means rapid access to a potentially life-saving blood transfusion,” Dr Fogarty said.

It's estimated that one in four people will need a blood transfusion at some stage in their life.

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