Monday, May 26, 2008

I, Vampire

I forgot to mention that last Thursday I received two more units of blood, bringing my blood transfusion count to 24 and my total transfusion count to 36. (I seem to be keeping a 2:1 ratio blood transfusions to platelet transfusions.)

The nice thing about blood transfusions is that afterwards I feel really energized. Otherwise they're incredibly unremarkable. This is especially true with a chest catheter, because there's no need to stick an IV in my arm; just plug and play. But what they lack in discomfort they make up with tedium. Here's how it plays out.

First is the cross match; a vial of blood is taken, and brought to the lab where it's tested against the units of blood meant to be used for the transfusion. (While they already have my blood type on file, the cross match is to determine compatibility against the units' antigens.) So that takes a little while. Then my blood pressure and temperature are taken, and if everything is good we start the procedure... which doesn't involve blood just as yet, but rather a saline drip.

When the first unit of blood is ready—each transfusion I've had to date has involved two units—it's added to the IV pump, which mixes it with the saline drip. Then it's just a matter of sitting and waiting, as it takes about 105 minutes to get one unit of blood into me. I usually spend the time reading, doing puzzles, writing, playing sudoku or sleeping—whatever's needed to pass the time. When I'm actually in hospital, it's no different from anything else because I always have the pump with me anyway. When I'm an outpatient, then I'm more or less confined to my chair, because there's nowhere else to go.

When the unit's done, the remaining blood is flushed from the tubes (and into me) with the saline, and I wait for the nurse to get to me. (On Thursday, the first unit ran out right in the middle of lunch hour, when the number of nurses on the floor drops to two. So I had to wait a little longer than usual.) Then she checks my temperature and blood pressure again, and if necessary we repeat the whole thing with another unit of blood, which we usually have to wait for.

Like I said, no pain, just tedium. Last week I got in around 10:00 and left around 3:00.

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