human behavior

O Positive

Posted in Habits & Manners, Health & Medicine by humanb on May 23, 2010

I’ve just started my pediatrics rotation in med school, and I’ll be spending four weeks in the Intensive Care Unit. After only a few days there, I feel more useless than the furniture, because you can’t even sit on me. I’ve spent most of my time so far trying desperately to look busy while staying out of people’s way. But who am I fooling? Everyone knows I don’t have a role to play, and I barely understand the intensive medicine they’re practicing. So I’m dearly hoping my supervisor will better articulate my role there soon because the rotation is beginning to dishearten me. It’s sad enough that the patients are children, and the sickest children in the hospital.

One of those children is a toddler with congenital heart disease who was admitted to ICU after having major open-heart surgery. This is the kind of patient of great concern in ICU, which means this is the kind of patient for whom I can do nothing. At least I thought so.

The girl was doing fairly well after surgery but was running dangerously low on platelets. This is the component in blood that enables blood to clot. If you’re low on platelets, you’re at risk of hemorrhaging internally and externally from minor injury. So, her doctors immediately ordered a bag of platelets for her.

Later, I noticed the plastic bag of straw-colored fluid lying across her bed. It read: O POSITIVE. Huh. That’s my blood type. I’m also a regular donor of plasma, platelets and whole blood. I’ve already donated on three or so occasions this year.

In contemplating that bag, my heart swelled. I started to feel a little less useless at that girl’s bedside, when I realized that the platelets in that bag could be mine. Well, in principle anyway. In one sense, nothing those doctors could do for her would compare to what her donor had freely given her.

Australian hospitals rely entirely on the blood and blood products of donors, and only 3% of Australians regularly donate. Not everyone is eligible to donate blood. If you’re eligible to donate, you should.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service

American Red Cross – Donate Blood


2 Responses

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  1. pursuenaturalny2008 said, on May 23, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    The world is united by the same water and the same blood. We may have sea water and river water but it is water. We may have A, B, AB and O blood but in the end it is blood. What a sense of oneness!

  2. humanb said, on June 13, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    “What a sense of oneness.”

    Nice. I hadn’t thought of it that way.

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