Alone in the Blood Bank

July 9, 2011 § 6 Comments

Photo by Øystein Horgmo © All rights reserved.

Last Friday night at a quarter to midnight, the blood bank called me and asked if I could donate blood the next morning. Fresh blood was needed for a critically ill child, I had the right blood type and I was scheduled to donate on Monday anyway. So Saturday morning I put my four-year-old daughter in the car and turned up at the blood bank at 07:45.

When I woke up I had felt a slight tingling at the back of my throat, like the premonition of a cold. I tried to call the hospital to find out if I still could donate, but no one answered the phone. So as the lift carried us up to the right floor, I was a bit nervous I’d wasted precious time. Getting another donor would no doubt take a few more hours. Normally bustling with people, on a Saturday morning the donation facilities was completely deserted except for a nurse and a doctor waiting for me. The nurse thanked me for turning up this early but her smile got a worried edge to it when I told her about my throat. “The doc will have to decide about that,” she said and led me into his office.

While he checked up on my file I asked him a few questions about the donation. Why did they need fresh blood? He could of course not give me any details on the receiver, but generally speaking fresh blood was often used on children in the thoracic intensive care unit (ICU) and for priming ECMO machines. ECMO is an acronym for Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation and is a therapy used in patients whose heart and lungs can’t function properly on their own. The boy I wrote about a while back, who got a new heart, was hooked up to an ECMO machine for a while after his operation. Other indications for ECMO therapy can be critical lung failure caused by infections, injury or illness, cardiac arrest and myocarditis. It can also be used in rewarming patients with hypothermia.

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO). Illustration by Jürgen Schaub, Creative Commons BY-SA.

“I have this tingling sensation at the back of my throat, doc” I said.  “Can I still donate? I know you asked me on the phone if I had a sore throat and I didn’t. But this morning that tingling was there”. “But you don’t have a sore throat?” he asked. “No, just a premonition.” “Then you can donate. No problem.” I was relieved I hadn’t just wasted everybody’s time.

Cleared for donation, I turned my attention to my daughter who had been very quiet until now. “Are they gonna cut your arm open?” she asked me. I could assure her they were only gonna use a needle. She got a soda and some biscuits and watched wide-eyed as the nurse let me of 450 millilitres of blood. But she was actually most intrigued by the rubber light bulb I was squeezing to increase the blood flow. The nurse gave one to her as well and we both squeezed until the bag was full. As we made for the door, the doc rushed out ahead of us. He was running to the ICU with the blood.

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§ 6 Responses to Alone in the Blood Bank

  • Pranab says:

    Kudos to you. I think you must have a rare blood type but in my experience most people in my area are not so open about donating blood. I guess the cultural side of the story has also got a big role to play in this issue.

    Nice post reminding everyone of the need of donating blood. I will keep this post link and share it often! :-) Thanks for writing this!

    • Øystein says:

      Thanks! I am 0+.

      Do you know why people would not talk about them donating? Over here it’s very openly discussed. Politicians donating to make a good example etc.

      BTW, if anyone wondered: Samples of my blood were sent to the microbiology lab for emergency testing. The test of course have to be negative before the blood is used.

  • It is true there is always a dearth of blood for the critical patient who needs blood and more so if the group is uncommon.I think all of us must understand this and come forward to help whenever the need be.

  • Suzanne says:

    I have O- blood, just like my grandfather. He lived in a rural town and was often called by the hospital to give emergency transfusions. Of course, that was before the blood was so carefully screened as it is now. I had not heard of someone in the present era being called for an emergency donation. I am sure that the family appreciated your taking the time to make sure the blood was available.

    • Øystein says:

      I hadn’t heard about before either. They told me fresh blood was needed about once a week, in cases where stored blood could not be used.

  • I’m a 0+ myself and I’ve experienced exactly the same thing as you. The next time I donate I’ll take a picture too :)

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