Wounded Afghanistan commando used up 68 pints after losing leg in gun battle - Exclusive
A quick-thinking Army medic saved a young marine's life - by lining up 10 colleagues to donate vital blood to pump into his critically-wounded body.
The Special Boat Service commando had been badly shot up and lost a leg in a Taliban firefight.
Blood supplies at the field hospital he was evacuated to were running low, so Major Tracey Smith-Straney rounded up 10 staff she knew were the same "O" blood group as the marine.
Crucially, the eight pints of fresh blood they donated contained platelets - tiny particles that help the blood clot and stop haemorrhaging - which medics were running out of.
During the dramatic hours that followed it took 86 units - 68 pints - of blood to save the commando.
Tracey, 41, said: "It was a critical situation. He was dying, he'd had two cardiac arrests on the operating table and was losing blood very quickly."
The TA Army medic - in charge of blood supplies at the 208 (Liverpool) Field Hospital in Helmand province, Afghanistan - explained: "He'd been badly shot in his legs and pelvis. This marine was bleeding very fast.
"We were putting the blood in him and it was coming straight back out. He'd had all our platelets supply. We had no way to get more unless we bled our staff."
Tracey, who had memorised the blood groups of all 40 medics, added: "I said, 'this guy is going to die, we need to initiate our emergency donor panel to save his life'.
"As soon as the call went out I had loads of people queueing up to donate.
"As soon as a bag was full, they'd hand it to me and I'd quickly double check it was the right group, then I'd take it straight to intensive care.
"They were pumping it into him right away. Eventually he just stopped bleeding - it had worked."
But the commando still had to be flown back to Britain safely for treatment at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham. Tracey, from Burscough, Lancs, said: "Our worry was he'd start losing blood again.
"So I rounded up another five people and bled them, so they could take the blood on the journey."
This week, after the drama in October 2007, Tracey had a letter from the marine's commanding officer telling her he had survived - and has since become a father.
Tracey said: "Reading that brought home how important it was we acted quickly."
Ged Need, 47, one of the medics who gave blood, said: "It was a great feeling to contribute.
Colleague Debra Telford added: "Tracey did an excellent job."
Red Stuff The different parts of blood - red cells, platelets and plasma - are stored separately by medics.
Platelets allow blood to clot. If the level of platelets is too low, it is impossible to stop bleeding.
The fresh blood taken from the volunteers and pumped into the commando were crucial in keeping him alive, because it contained platelets to stop the constant bleeding.