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Sierra Sacramento Valley Medicine

Blood transfusions between dogs were done as early as 1665, but the first successful transfusion between humans didn’t take place until 1818. Although blood typing began in 1907, it wasn’t until 1935 that doctors at the Mayo Clinic first used stored blood for transfusions. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until five years later that the rH factor that had killed many blood recipients was discovered. The nation’s first blood bank had been established at the Cook County Hospital in Chicago in 1937, and at the outbreak of World War II the American Red Cross was called upon to collect millions of pints of blood for armed forces members. Blood had been collected into glass vacuum bottles at that time, but plastic containers developed in 1948 by Dr. Carl W. Walker allowed for easier transport and shipping. These new, more portable containers were key to enabling the Charles O. Sweetwood car to travel the West and collect over 25,000 pints of blood to support troops overseas.

All photos courtesy of the Feather River Rail Society from the Western Pacific Railroad Corporate Archives/Kenneth J. Meeker Collection

volunteer pilots, risked their lives by flying blood from a snowbound train to Elko through heavy weather. The blood arrived safely and would have deteriorated had it not been delivered immediately. The Charles O. Sweetwood car was eventually purchased from the Western Pacific Railroad and fully restored with help from the American Red Cross and the Feather River Rail Society. The car was rededicated in honor of Sgt. Sweetwood on September 9, 1984 and relocated to the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola, where it is available for viewing today. Vicknair said that in 2017 the Western Pacific Museum received a visit from the last known surviving Red Cross nurse who worked in the car. The museum is seeking to do a total restoration of the Charles O. Sweetwood car at an estimated cost of $1.4 million, and the Red Cross has indicated interest in using the car again once it has been restored. For more on the Charles O. Sweetwood car and pictures from its journey, visit A Higher Calling on the Western Pacific Railroad Museum’s website at wplives.org.

Profile for Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society

2019-Jul/Aug - SSV Medicine  

Sierra Sacramento Valley Medicine is the official journal of the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society (SSVMS) and promotes the history,...

2019-Jul/Aug - SSV Medicine  

Sierra Sacramento Valley Medicine is the official journal of the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society (SSVMS) and promotes the history,...