Bloody Wednesday

Today began a two-week adventure in lab medicine.  Just the name of it makes me want to snore a little, but nonetheless, that is what it is.  I was actually supposed to start yesterday, but my asthma from the construction efforts made me unable to sleep, let alone walk across the room, so I had to take a coveted sick day.  Today, however, I can navigate the house without becoming short of breath and was able to sleep flat (though the self-imposed increased corticosteroid inhaler caused some restlessness that again decreased productive sleep… that and team Canada getting crushed).  So, I ventured down to the bowels of the hospital and after getting lost at least twice, I found my way to the pathology department where I expected to start my day.  Then I got my schedule… I was booked to be at Canadian Blood Services at 9am… it was 8:50.  And Patrick had the car.  So, on the phone I was to Patrick’s taxi.  I somehow made it and only 10 minutes late!  The adventure at Canadian Blood Services will be the focus of my babbling today.  However, it is also of note that following that, I spent an hour touring the chemistry lab and learning about how mass spectrometry is the future and was the left on my own to look at pathology slides and try to figure them out from the textbook.  Woot.

I actually thought the whole Canadian Blood Services thing would be a bit of a snooze.  I did a hematology elective.  I visited the blood bank.  I tried to donate blood once in my undergrad (I was anemic and hypotensive… I didn’t even make it past the first screen).  So, I didn’t really think there was anything else to learn.  Cocky attitude… Yes.  Cranky attitude… Yes.  But in the end, I did learn.  I actually got much more insight into the blood situation in Canada and more specifically in the area where we live with its isolated population and transportation issues.  The entirety of the whole blood stock for the province (and this is a good time of year… nothing more festive than giving blood for Christmas) is on two shelves.  Two.  That is it.  A unit of platelets lasts for only 5 days.  I learned about quality control and the progress scientists are making to make blood safer for those who need it.  Interestingly, a new procedure… One we use currently to obtain some of our platelets is going to hopefully also revolutionize blood collection… because you can take what you need and leave the rest.  Instead of pooling 5-10 donors, you can get the same amount from one.  Think of the decrease in disease risk that could create!  It got me excited about blood!

Now, I admit, I have not given blood.  I tried once, and then have since blown it off as something I “can’t” do.  But really, I don’t know that.  I just made excuses because I am lazy and didn’t want to go through the effort.  And I am a healthcare professional.  Who wants to care for cancer patients (who need a ton of blood).  So, I am a hypocrite.  I have encouraged friends to donate blood.  I say it’s a good thing.  Harmless.  But I don’t do it myself.  And haven’t tried for ages.  Its not like I am scared of donating.  Needles don’t bug me.  I don’t have any weird diseases or risk factors for not giving.  I am just lazy.

I am going to say that you should give.  Because I do believe that.  And it isn’t that time consuming.  I learned today that the current door-to-door time for giving whole blood is only approximately 45minutes… Only 5-10 of these are the actual donating time.  That is it.  The rest is screening and waiting between steps.  You could read a book.  Giving plasma takes a bit longer and isn’t something you start out with.  Platelet apheresis takes a couple hours, but again, not something you start out with.  You can donate whole blood every 56 days.  Not just once a year.  Contrary to popular belief, donating does not make healthy people anemic.  Most people don’t faint.  And you will save lives or palliate symptoms.  How cool is that?

Just to really get you thinking… People I have cared for that needed blood products: A new mother who has a clotting disorder and cannot stop bleeding after delivery, a middle aged woman who is so anemic, she faints when walking to the bathroom, a 3 year old boy undergoing cancer treatments, a friend who got hit by a drunk driver walking home from church, a young man who had a major joint bleed after falling off his skateboard, an older gentleman with a condition called ITP in which his body keeps destroying his own platelets, so his blood can’t clot, an older lady with a smoldering leukemia that requires red cells every couple months to get her energy up and avoid treatment and many others.  Everyone likely knows someone who needed blood products at some point.  YOU may need blood products at some point.

Many people see others who are very sick and circumstances that are difficult.  They say things like, “I wish I could help” but maybe don’t really know how.  This is a simple way to help.  To love people who are in tough situations.  To meet a physical need.  And you don’t even have to do anything except roll up a sleeve.  Some people can’t give blood.  But they can encourage those who can.

Ironically, the song “Nothing But the Blood of Jesus” is stuck in my head.  I don’t especially like the song.  It causes stress – our handbell choir played it and it wasn’t exactly an easy piece and I am pretty sure we butchered it on performance night.  Anyway, the thing is.  Jesus shed blood to save all of us.  He gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we could have eternal life with Him.  That is pretty huge.  It makes giving a small fraction of our blood and staying alive seem pretty insignificant.  At least that is how it seems to me.  Plus, if you are following Him and His example, you want to give of yourself for others.  Meeting physical and spiritual needs.  Showing love.  I think giving blood is a tangible way to show love to the greater community.  Not in the building a new house or thumping Bibles way, but in quiet servant hood.

Patrick and I have decided that on my week of pre-interviews, we are going to take a trip to Canadian Blood Services (he donated for a few years then stopped after a near-fainting episode) and donate!

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