As a stunned Jenn Oakes floated in the lake, it wasn’t just the intense pain that signaled something was desperately wrong; it was also the water surrounding her rapidly turning red.
The teenager had been enjoying a carefree day boating with friends. As the beautiful summer evening drew to a close, Jenn leaned over the edge of the motorboat. Suddenly, she was overboard, under the water. As the boat passed over, the propeller sliced into her right knee and lower leg. Instantly, Jenn was thrown into a fight for her life.
Fortunately, STARS launched an initiative called Blood on Board in 2013 that would play a key role in saving her life. The idea was simple but ambitious: stock blood right at the STARS base so medical crews could bring it with them for trauma patients, saving the time previously needed to stop off at hospitals while en route to the patient.
STARS was the first helicopter EMS program in Canada to launch such an initiative, and it proved to be a quick success. It was rolled out to other bases in short order and is currently available at every STARS base.
In Jenn’s case, access to blood on the flight to the hospital was crucial in saving her life. During the 30-minute flight, four units (about 2 litres) of blood was transfused – the entire supply available. Doctors have told her that without the blood, she likely wouldn’t have survived the trip.
Though she lost her leg, Jenn didn’t lose her dream of playing volleyball. She continues to train on her club team and is a member of the Canadian National Sitting Volleyball team. “One of the first things I thought of after the incident was: how can I get back playing?” said Jenn. “Thankfully, that’s a reality for me again.”
Did you know? Each unit of blood is about half a litre. STARS stocks two units of O negative blood supplied from local hospitals, securely enclosed in a six kilogram insulated thermal cooler with a monitoring device to ensure proper temperature. If the blood is not used within 72 hours, it is returned to the hospital, inspected to ensure quality, and then made available to other patients.