LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. (ABC7) — Three years ago, a bus that was converted into a food truck slammed into Erin Kaplan's car.
The 39-year old mother of three died. Kaplan's kids, and her mother, were trapped in the car along Evergreen Mills Road in Loudoun County.
“There was a small amount of blood on the scene from the helicopters that were there, but we were running out,” said Dr. John Morgan with Loudoun County Fire & Rescue.
Dr. Morgan said a chief on the scene suggested asking Inova to rush more blood to the scene, while first responders kept working to rescue everyone from the car.
Kaplan's children and mother survived
“I have been an emergency physician, EMS physician for 17 years," said Dr. Morgan. "That is the first time I have ever been involved in anything like that."
After the 2017 crash, Fairfax County and Loudoun County teamed up with Inova to launch a program called Field Available Component Transfusion Response, or FACT*R.
FACT*R keeps large amounts of blood on hand for emergency crews to rush to scenes. Previously, whole blood was only available on medevac helicopters.
Now the program is expanding to hospitals in Arlington and Mount Vernon.
The expansion is expected to decrease response time by approximately 20 minutes, including along the Route 1 corridor and GW Parkway.
“It’s a big deal to make sure that all of the areas in this county have this opportunity for the best chance of survival in a critical incident,” said Dr. Dan Avstreih who is Fairfax County Fire and Rescue's Associate Medical Director.
Loudoun County first responders are carrying their own units of blood in two vehicles. The two liters of blood are kept in a temperature controlled cooler and are replaced every two weeks. Blood that is not use is returned to the hospital, so the precious resource is not wasted. Blood can last around 30 days.
“In order for us to be able to supply our EMS units with these units of blood, we need the community to come out and donate,” said Terri Craddock, Senior Director of Inova Blood Donor Services.
Crews are carrying O-positive whole blood, which can be given to most patients regardless of their blood type.
Only 37% of people are Type O, which is why those donors are particularly important.
Inova still needs blood donors of all types, especially during the pandemic. Information about how you can donate can be found here.
“This is the only regional, coordinated blood service on the East Coast that is working between EMS, the blood donor services, the hospital systems, [and] the trauma teams,” said Craig Evans with Northern Virginia EMS Council.
It's a groundbreaking local program that could make the difference between life or death when every second counts.
“This is a gamechanger," said Dr. Morgan. “Northern Virginia itself is 2.7 million and there is even that many more people in suburban Maryland and D.C. that could benefit from something like this, so we want it to spread because I believe in the idea and I think it is going to save lives.”
On September 22, Arlington Fire tweeted that they were able to use the program for the very first time.
Tony Dane, the driver of the food truck that hit Erin Kaplan's car, is serving nine years in prison. The 59-year old was convicted of five charges, including involuntary manslaughter and careless driving. Investigators said the rundown converted food truck was a "ticking time bomb."