CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. (WROC) — A bill has been signed into law in New York allowing emergency medical aircraft to carry and distribute blood in the air. Advocates have been fighting for months to pass the legislation passed into law on December 23, making New York the last state in the country to have the ability.

Erin Reese, program director with Mercy Flight Central in Canandaigua, said that sometimes it takes many miles to fly a patient to a trauma center. Even up to 45 minutes in rural areas. She said that about 40% of the patients they serve are trauma patients who need blood right away. But for years, New Yorkers have had to rely only on saltwater transfusions in the air instead of actual blood.

“When you have a patient that has been traumatically injured, they need volume, giving them saltwater is not the gold standard, they need blood products at that point,” said Reese. “The patients we transport are often a significant distance from a trauma center.”

But this new law is going to make things significantly easier for both patients and medics. “The bill was initially introduced two years ago,” she said. “Something many other programs have been doing, so certainly something we are excited and ready to start doing as well.”

The blood will be refrigerated on the aircraft and monitored regularly for expiration. Reese says a recent shortage of blood in our region is one concern moving forward. But she has faith this is something the community can step up and help with, as long as the word continues to get out. “We’ll work with blood banks, the Red Cross—and work to develop a relationship with those agencies,” she said.

Reese said she’s hopeful this new law can only improve care for patients. Whether they’re in far-out, rural regions or not. Every second counts. She also said Mercy Flight Central in Canandaigua is planning on hosting a blood drive soon to help with the shortage.