The 1940s brought a number of exciting discoveries for plasma, it was also a decade of unprecedented demand for blood, and the beginning of mobile blood banking

The USA founded a technique to produce liquid Albumin that unlocked new potential for plasma in medicine, which we adopted in Australia. This enabled us to supply thousands of litres of blood for manufacture into serum and dried plasma for transport to troops overseas.

Australia’s first mobile blood unit was created, comprising a Red Cross truck carrying an ice chest for blood and serum, and two trailers with ice-making facilities, sterilisation and distillation equipment. Its journey was short-lived, as the ship transporting it overseas was captured by the Germans in 1940. Today, a fleet of 38 mobile units visits over 1,000 towns and centres around Australia annually.

By the end of the war in 1945 our Lifeblood were operating at a larger scale, with record amounts of blood being donated and transfusion services operating in all states and territories (excluding the ACT ). The National Emergency Blood Transfusion Committee removed “Emergency” from its title and took a national advisory role to the state divisions.

Blood transfusions had become standard in most major operations and we had difficulty meeting the surging demand for blood. No longer funded by wartime donations, we began lobbying state and federal governments to ensure we could continue to support the needs of hospitals and pharmaceuticals.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Thousands of litres of blood was supplied to Australian and Allied troops overseas
  • Record donations were being collected across the nation, from almost 3,000 donations over the previous decade, to more than 1,000 donations a month in Victoria alone by 1945
  • Blood transfusion services began operating in all states and territories (excluding the ACT)
  • The National Emergency Blood Transfusion Committee became the National Blood Transfusion Committee
  • Australia’s first mobile blood unit was created