GREENE, N.Y. (WIVT) — On March 13, Travis Flanagan suffered a horrific injury while farming in the Town of Greene. His legs got caught in a corn picking machine, ultimately resulting in a double amputation below the knee.
When first responders got to the scene, they called for the New York-based medical helicopter but it was not available. That may have saved Flanagan’s life.
When the LifeNet medevac chopper based in Sydney, New York couldn’t respond, Guthrie Air out of Sayre, Pennsylvania was dispatched. The paramedic and nurse on board brought blood with them to the cornfield.
“I got two blood transfusions in the field is what I did. Actually, in the physical field—not in the helicopter, in the field where I was trapped in the machine that day,” says Flanagan.
Both Guthrie Air and LifeNet are operated by Air Methods, but New York’s LifeNet is not allowed to carry blood on trauma calls because the state does not allow it.
Air Methods Medical Director Doctor David Stuhlmiller says this has directly lead to New Yorkers dying. “We have had trauma patients die during transport to a trauma center. And the likely, most likely cause is that they have bled to death,” he says.
New York is the last state to ban medical helicopters from storing, handling, and administering blood, unless they are transporting patients already receiving transfusions from one hospital to another.
State Sen. Fred Akshar heard about the arcane rule from the Flanagan family. “I think the time has passed. I think we need to get with the current times, join the other 49 states in the nation and be able to provide this lifesaving service to anybody who needs it,” he says.
At Akshar’s urging, the Senate Health Committee recently passed legislation that would allow medevacs to carry blood.
Air Methods Account Executive Steve Sculley says that if the legislation becomes law, LifeNet is ready to go. “The flight crews that we provide in New York State have the training, they have the comfort and they frequently do it on these inter-facility transfers,” he says.
Flanagan is a certified registered nurse anesthetist, so he knows a thing or two about medicine. He believes that the blood Guthrie gave him not only saved his life, but likely improved his outcomes once he arrived at the hospital.
Flanagan is determined to use his tragedy to inspire change. “This happened to me but I want to make a positive out of it at the same time. I hope that this is one of those positives,” he says.
Flanagan’s determination and positive outlook may be the driving force that makes it happen. Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo is co-sponsoring legislation in the Assembly that would allow New York medevac choppers to carry blood.
Travis’s brother, Trevor, has started a Change.org petition online, with almost 13,000 signatures as of Friday afternoon.