Broad Network Providing Whole Blood Transfusions Transforms Trauma Care, Improves Survival Rates by 25 Percent

South Texas man survives serious injuries thanks to Brothers in Arms blood donor

San Antonio, Texas, Jan. 30, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- George Ortiz is alive today thanks to a 26,000-square-mile safety net that stretches across South Texas.

Ortiz, a construction worker from Jourdanton, suffered a severe leg injury last year while on the job, causing a dramatic loss in blood. The therapy that helped save his life – a transfusion of specially collected and tested whole blood – came through the Brothers in Arms program.

The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center and a network of trauma centers, medical helicopter providers and EMS units are celebrating the one-year anniversary of Brothers in Arms in January. The program supplies the whole blood for use in medical helicopters, San Antonio Fire Department medical vehicles and Level 1 trauma centers in San Antonio, covering 26,000 square miles of South Texas.

“We have given whole blood to more than 140 patients in pre-hospital settings, and we’re excited to say there has been at least a 25 percent decrease in deaths related to hemorrhage in trauma patients,” said Dr. Donald Jenkins, deputy director of military health at the Institute of Trauma and Surgery at UT Health San Antonio and University Health System.

“There is no place in the United States where an entire region of 22 counties across 26,000 square miles with more than 50 hospitals and 70 EMS and helicopter EMS agencies has access to whole blood for their injured and bleeding patients, except for South Texas,” Dr. Jenkins said.

San Antonio is the only city in the nation with a broad network to transport whole blood to trauma sites, which is transforming emergency response in mass trauma situations.

About Brothers in Arms:

  • Use of whole blood, rather than only red cells or other components, was found to be better for controlling bleeding and increasing survival rates in battlefield tests led by Dr. Jenkins.
  • The program provides transfusions much earlier at the trauma site or en route to the hospital, which was also shown to increase survival rates in studies by the military.
  • Because the blood is specially tested to ensure it is low in antigens that could cause reactions, patients can receive O-positive blood, rather than O-negative blood. Although O-negative blood is traditionally used in emergency situations because it is safe to give to people with all blood types, supplies are extremely limited. O-negative donors represent only 7 percent of the population, compared to 36 percent who are O-positive.
  • A core group of O-positive men was established to donate blood to the program, currently with 484 active Brothers in Arms donors.

As it heads into its second year, Brothers in Arms is expanding to more emergency rooms in San Antonio and the surrounding area.

For patients like George Ortiz, the program has been lifesaving.

“What I remember is standing on top of the hole-drilling machine and removing some pins so that the rest of the stem that drills the hole could come down. Then the machine squished my leg. It felt like it tore it off," he said.

Ortiz went in and out of consciousness as his coworkers and emergency personnel raced to save his life. A Department of Public Safety trooper applied a tourniquet at one point. Ortiz was evacuated via ambulance and then helicopter, and he received the Brothers in Arms transfusion on the way to the hospital.

He is alive today because of Brothers in Arms blood donors like Michael Noriega, who had donated just days before the accident.

“Ensuring a stable blood supply for patients and hospital partners in all the communities served by STBTC is paramount,” said Elizabeth Waltman, COO of South Texas Blood & Tissue Center. “It is imperative that programs like Brothers in Arms have specialty blood to support and sustain the program, especially given that a whole blood unit has a 35-day shelf life.”

The program represents a collaboration involving the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, a subsidiary of BioBridge Global; UT Health Science Center; the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council (STRAC); University Health System; the San Antonio Military Medical Center; The U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research; San Antonio Fire Department; and medical helicopter services Air Evac Lifeteam/Methodist Aircare, PHI Inc., and San Antonio AirLIFE.

The program was established in San Antonio with support from a grant provided by the San Antonio Medical Foundation, USAA and Union Pacific Railroad.

“The continued success and growth of our Brothers in Arms program depends on growing this pool of committed donors,” Waltman said. “Brothers in Arms participants are among our most reliable donors, with more than 80 percent of them showing up to scheduled appointments to give blood.”

Male donors who would like to know if they qualify to be a Brothers in Arms volunteer are encouraged to call 210-731-5590 to schedule an appointment for testing.



About the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center: The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center (STBTC) is a nonprofit community blood center that provides blood, plasma, platelets and other blood components to more than 70 hospitals in 48 South Texas counties. It is the largest blood supplier in our region. STBTC has a proud 45-year history serving the South Texas community. The center is a subsidiary of BioBridge Global, a nonprofit organization comprising services for regenerative medicine and research including blood banking and resource management; cellular therapy; umbilical cord blood collection and storage; donated human tissue recovery and distribution for transplant; and testing of blood and plasma products to help patients in South Texas, the United States and worldwide. STBTC has seven donor rooms in South Texas and conducts thousands of mobile blood drives each year. Visit us at and


George Ortiz, right, who received an emergency transfusion of type-O blood as part of emergency medical care, is pictured with Michael Noriega, whose blood Ortiz received during his treatment, at the Brothers in Arms event. Elizabeth Waltman, Chief Operating Officer, South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, recognizes Col. Andre Cap, Chief of Blood Research, U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, at the Brothers in Arms event.

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