Mayo Clinic Airborne Blood Bank Celebrates 30 Years

Mayo One paramedic Jessica Fite loaded a refrigerated supply of plasma and blood onto the helicopter in Rochester, Minn. Credit: Jerry Olson • Rochester Post-Bulletin via the Associated Press
Mayo One paramedic Jessica Fite loaded a refrigerated supply of plasma and blood onto the helicopter in Rochester, Minn.
Credit: Jerry Olson • Rochester Post-Bulletin via the Associated Press

Thirty years ago this October, Mayo One medical helicopter flew its first patient. To celebrate its anniversary, the Star Tribune tells the story of Nels Gunderson, who in 2012 hung in the balance between life and death.

While working in his back yard in Osseo, Wis., Gunderson was injured while using industrial equipment. “I was planting sweet corn with a commercial rototiller, walked up to the rototiller to repair a pin that was acting up, without shutting it off, which I should have known better,” he said.

Nels Gunderson Credit: Associated Press file
Nels Gunderson
Credit: Associated Press file

“The rototiller decided to jump up — was on the back of a small diesel tractor — and landed on the end of my work boot. And before we could get it shut off, it cut my leg off three times; sucked me into the rototiller,” Gunderson added.

His survival depended on access to first responders, rapid medical stabilization and an airborne blood bank carried by the Mayo One medical helicopter. Mayo One transported Gunderson quickly from his back yard to the Mayo Clinic Hospital, Saint Marys Campus, about 90 miles away, where a surgical team was working on him less than two hours after his son dialed 911.

“I came out of the hospital on the fifth day after the accident because everything went so well,” he said. Today, although Gunderson uses a prosthesis, he participates in many activities, including returning to work, serving as fire chief and hunting, fishing and snowmobiling — thanks in large part to the airborne Mayo blood bank.

“I’m living proof of how important that is,” he said. “Because, without it, I may or may not have been here.”

Read the full story here.

 

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Kelley Schreiber

Kelley Schreiber is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She is the principle editor and writer of Insights and leads social media and direct marketing strategy. Kelley has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2013. Outside of work, you can find Kelley running, traveling, playing with her new kitten, and exploring new foods.