Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fun-a-day 8: Blood bank

I had already finished my art clash collective Fun'a'day quilt block this morning when we heard on the radio about the tragic mass shooting today in Tuscon, Arizona, at US Rep Gabrielle Giffords public meeting.  Needless to say, we're stunned and horrified.  My  thoughts and prayers go out to Representative Giffords' family and the families of all others involved.  We have family in Tuscon, my husband's aunt and uncle, the recipient of the 50th anniversary quilt that I recently blogged about.  So we are also concerned about them.

As a former medical technologist, my thoughts immediately went to those in the hospital labs all over the city who work in blood bank, including those at the University Medical Center in Tucson.  Also as a former med tech, I have been directly involved in too many traumas to count.  My first 2 jobs were in small hospitals, where I was routinely called to traumas in the emergency room to draw, or collect blood.  I have also worked in blood bank when these traumas came in.  I know first hand what the hospital workers, not just doctors and nurses, but many other departments go through emotionally when they are facing such a situation.  The only thing that makes it bearable is the incredible teamwork that happens and comes together while we all try to save a life.  It's really something that can not be explained.  But my thoughts and prayers go out to all of the many hospital workers, including medical technologists who are working in these cases today.  In situations like this, the teamwork extends to all of the hospitals in the whole area, as well as police and EMT's, firefighters and even people you wouldn't think of, like cab drivers who pick up supplies for us, or couriers who deliver needed blood products and supplies to the hospital.

I wasn't really planning on doing a "blood bank" quilt block, as my plan was originally to do just slides and stains that we see under the microscope (thus the circles), but I felt compelled to stitch together this unit of O negative blood to add to the project today.

People with O negative are called "universal donors", because O negative blood can be given to anyone with no adverse reactions.  If you transfuse the "wrong" type of blood into a patient, it can be fatal.  In a trauma case, we don't have the time to "type and cross match" the blood, so the doctors order O negative blood initially to give to the patient.  The blood bank in the lab will draw a blood sample before any blood has been given to the patient, then determine the blood type ( A, B, AB, or O), and the Rh factor (either positive or negative).    In a cross match, we take blood from the donated unit (we use the little segments that trail off of the unit on the left), and mix, or "cross" it with the potential patient or recipient to see if it's compatible.  In a trauma, as soon as we know the patient's blood type, we switch to "type specific" blood.  That's cross matched too.  It's critical that we keep an adequate supply of O negative blood on hand in case of traumas, but also because people who are O negative can only receive O negative blood.  People who are AB positive are the universal recipient, and can be transfused with blood from anyone with no ill effects.

Forgive me if I don't make much sense today.  The TV has been on all day, and it's hard to concentrate.  But I just wanted to continue this project in a way that helps me make sense of what happened today.

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