"Hit and gravely injured by a drunk driver, Eric Hudspeth knows the lifesaving value of blood and platelet donations firsthand. Susan Evans, MD, FACS, Eric’s surgeon, is initiating investigative research to preserve the life of platelets."

News, Your Health | 27 days ago

Local blood and platelet donations save lives, and support research

Hit and gravely injured by a drunk driver, Eric Hudspeth knows the lifesaving value of blood and platelet donations firsthand. Susan Evans, MD, FACS, Eric’s surgeon, is initiating investigative research to preserve the life of platelets.

As a Medic paramedic, Eric Hudspeth saves lives every day. But three years ago, he was the one fighting for his life after he was struck by a drunk driver. His Medic co-workers arrived at the scene and raced him to the trauma center at Carolinas Medical Center. 

Eric arrived at the trauma center with right side injuries, including rib fractures, a torn lung, liver laceration, kidney injury and an elbow fracture. Due to the severity of his injuries, low blood pressure, high heart rate and blood in his abdomen, Susan Evans, MD, FACS, chief of surgical critical care at Carolinas Medical Center quickly took Eric to the operating room for his first of more than 25 surgeries. 

"He was on the verge of dying," Dr. Evans says. "When I recall the day, I have my own recollection, but as I go back and look through the details to remind myself, I'm still surprised he survived this."

In the first hour alone, Dr. Evans started massive transfusion for Eric. He received 36 units of red blood cells, 35 units of plasma and two units of platelets to properly stabilize and prevent him from losing more blood.

"This is what saved his life," says Dr. Evans.

Eric explains the average person has roughly 10.5 pints of blood in circulation, yet he received over 70 pints in his initial surgeries.

"It was touch-and-go there for a while," Eric recalls. "But here I am today."

'Tis the season

Over three years and more than 25 operations later, Eric has fully recovered, which he credits to the Carolinas Medical Center trauma staff, his Medic co-workers and Community Blood Center for the Carolinas' generous blood donors. 

"Blood donations saved my life," Eric says. "Without the donations of the people around the area, I would not be here."

Community Blood Center of the Carolinas [CBCC] is the primary blood supplier to the region's hospitals. While CBCC provides blood products for hospitals and their patients every day, during the holiday season the amount of incoming donations decreases due to holiday plans and travel. This results in a steady decline in the amount of blood products available to patients – and research – in the Charlotte area, especially platelets.

Platelets – a specific part of your blood that creates natural clotting – can only be stored at room temperature for five days and are crucial for patients, like Eric, as they are essential to the process that stops bleeding. 

According to CBCC's website, it takes the separated platelets from approximately six whole blood donations to equal one unit of platelets collected. But, one directed platelet donation (through platelet pheresis) can provide enough platelets for up to three complete transfusions.

However, platelets must be collected, tested and transfused within five days. Due to this short shelf life, platelets are in constant demand by local hospitals and new donors are needed every day.

Preserving lives

Dr. Evans, Eric's surgeon, is currently initiating investigative research to preserve the life of platelets beyond five days – the only research of its kind in the region – as packed blood cells can be stored in the refrigerator for 90 days and plasma can be stored for over a year in the freezer. Working closely with Dr. Evans on this research, Michael Ekaney, PhD, a postdoctoral surgical fellow at Carolinas HealthCare System, performs tests to determine platelet function, prepares tables, graphs and manuscript for data interpretation and publication, and determines logistics of timing and separation of platelets. 

Carolinas HealthCare System has received pilot funding for the study and is currently studying platelet function in brain-injured patients as well.

"If the platelet product we're providing patients is a better platelet product, fewer transfusions may be required, downstream consequences would be better, recovery could be increased and more lives, like Eric's, could be saved," Dr. Evans explains. "Furthermore, more durable platelets would result in better accessibility to our citizens and soldiers abroad."

Dr. Evans co-authored an article published in April 2017 concluding platelet function can be preserved for up to 10 days by cold storage. Dr. Evans argues that extending the storage of platelets could bridge the gap and reduce the estimated shortfall of more than 500,000 platelet units needed each year in the United States alone.

Giving back

“Stories like Eric’s happen more often than any of us would like to imagine. His story would have ended tragically without the blood donations of our local volunteers. He is an inspiration and a reminder of how important it is to give blood to help support the patients of our community,” says Martin Grable, president and CEO of Community Blood Center of the Carolinas.

According to CBCC's findings, our region's hospitals need more than 400 blood products each day to meet the needs of their patients; patients that could be co-workers, friends or loved ones.

“It is vitally important that we maintain a steady supply of blood on the shelves, ready for any patient who may need a lifesaving transfusion. Our hospitals need an available and reliable supply of blood throughout the year,” Grable explains. “The holiday season is the most difficult time for blood collection. All of us are busy and the weather is sometimes unpredictable, but local patients need blood each and every day. You can give the priceless gift of life by donating blood. It costs nothing except an hour of your time, but to the patients and their families, the gift of life is priceless.”

If you’re interested in providing blood or platelet donations, CBCC is hosting several Carolinas HealthCare System-affiliated drives in December and January:

CHS Pineville – December 27 from 9:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
CHS Mint Hill – January 4 from 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Carolinas Medical Center – January 18 from 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
CHS Stanly – January 31 from 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

To donate, you must be 16 years or older and weigh at least 120 pounds and platelet donors must weigh at least 110 pounds.

For a list of donation centers, visit CBCC's website or to make an appointment with CBCC directly, please call 1-888-59BLOOD.