The Circle of Life

“We’ve got a Level 1 Trauma coming into A1, can you run up to the blood bank and grab some units of whole blood?” I hadn’t done this before so another ED Tech came with me to show me the ropes. We went up stairs, handed over the paperwork and they handed us two coolers (one with packed red blood cells, the other with platelets and other factors). I carried them downstairs. It was a humbling feeling: in my hands, I literally was carrying the liquid of life. Without this fluid coursing through our arteries and veins, we die. (and ironically if the iron inside the hemoglobin gets out of its proteins and starts to float around in our blood freely, that can be seriously dangerous too). I didn’t yet know what the trauma was or if we’d even need the blood, that was a decision the doctors would make, but I knew this could make a difference.

I was reminded of the above yesterday as I sat on the bench at the blood drive watching the blood leave my arm and flow down a small tube into a bag just beyond my sight. I have O+ blood, the second most preferred kind (after O-). In addition, I have not been exposed to CMV (cyomegalovirus). This means my blood is a preferred type for pediatric patients since I don’t have antibodies to CMV (most adults have been exposed at some point and probably don’t know it and as such have antibodies).

I don’t know exactly where my blood will end up, but I do know it’ll help someone. In fact it will likely help multiple patients. To me there’s a certain joy, even thrill in that.

It doesn’t take much to give blood. It can take about an hour of your time (more if you do a double-red, but then you only donate half as often) and a small, fairly short, painless prick in your arm. Then they give you snacks!

As I recall, in the above trauma, that specific patient ended up not needing the blood. But I’ve seen other patients since then who have needed blood. I’m glad they’ve been able to get it. It makes a difference.

If you want to give someone something this holiday season, consider giving the gift of life. Give blood.

(and small footnote, before anyone criticizes the American Red Cross’s policies, some which I think are overly stringent and even discriminatory, please note it’s actually the FDA that sets the rules and the ARC has argued for changes. So make sure your frustration and anger is directed a the right group.)

Include the usual disclaimer that I do not speak for or represent my employer Albany Medical Health System.

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