‘He lost a lot of blood’: Cop reveals harrowing ordeal
The prognosis wasn't looking good.
"He hasn't got much left; we need this blood now," a medical officer on scene said frantically, as he turned to Coffs-Clarence Highway Patrol supervisor Sergeant Jarrod French, and Senior Constable Biele who was first on scene.
Sgt French could see the last few millilitres of blood disappearing down a small tube and into the man still trapped inside his crushed vehicle.
"I looked at the blood bag and there was nothing in there," he said.
"What was left was dripping down that tube. He had lost a lot of blood and without more, there was a high probability that he may die."
Sgt French had been in this situation many times and knew every minute counted in the battle between life and death. Fortunately, he had dedicated colleagues up for the fight that day.
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When most people think of Highway Patrol, speeding tickets and RBTs often come to mind. But Sgt French said 'blood runs' were a little-known service the police and Highway Patrol perform on a regular basis.
It's a service that literally saves lives.
"We can deliver blood, organs, or in some cases a medical specialist in an urgent situation, but in rural areas, blood delivery is the most common," he said.
Once the call for an urgent blood delivery goes out over police radio, Sgt French said it wasn't just a matter of jumping in the car and driving fast down a highway.
"A lot of co-ordination goes into it: taking into consideration the conditions at the time like traffic flow, road quality, weather, the location of the place that needs the delivery as well as the experience of the driver and police vehicle type," he said.
"Our Highway Patrol officers are accredited and trained to drive high-speed vehicles because at the end of the day, it's about being safe for everyone involved."
Sgt French said he had been behind the wheel of several blood-runs over the years where deliveries are usually timed down to the minute.
"Depending on the urgency of the delivery, the most efficient way to do it is for Highway Patrol to work in conjunction with the traffic management centre who provide us with a favourable traffic path, which could mean keeping the route clear," he said.
"Sometimes we organise other police officers to assist at the other end such as a Grafton General Duties police officer on this occasion. Because there's a time delay having to get out of the car, run into the hospital and get the blood, we'll sometimes have another police car do that part and meet them along the way.
"That exchange between the two police vehicles can be as short as a few seconds, giving us valuable time to get that delivery to where it needs to go."
Back at the crash site, with the man still trapped inside the crushed vehicle, emergency services personnel, which now included the Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter crew, waited anxiously for the lifesaving delivery of blood.
Sgt French had one member of his capable team, Senior Constable Jeff Rainbow, making the 60km round-trip to collect the precious package.
"He was the ideal person for the job: he's fully trained, fully certified, trustworthy and a good driver," he said.
The rural road SCst Rainbow took to get to Grafton was relatively clear of traffic, but with heavy, scattered showers and adverse weather conditions that day, Sgt French more cautious than usual.
"I got on the radio to make sure he was on his way and that he was going to get there as expedient as possible keeping in mind his own and the community safety," he said.
"Given the road conditions due to the weather, he ended up coming back down the highway because it was a much safer route."
The moment SCst Rainbow's Highway Patrol car appeared around the corner and pulled up near the crash site, Sgt French and SCst Rainbow wasted no time getting the urgent delivery to medical staff.
"We got the blood out, opened up the package and prepared everything for the paramedics so all they had to do was hook it up," he said.
"Had it not got there in time, there was a great possibility that the person wouldn't have survived. But it wasn't just SCst Rainbow's actions that day, it was all of the emergency services, Coffs/Clarence Police, SES, RFS, Ambulance, Westpac Lifesaver and Clarence Valley Council working together," Sgt French said.
"Everyone of them works hard and plays an important part during these incidents. It's a genuine team effort where we all work together to achieve the best outcome and I just can't praise them all enough."