Monday started like any other Monday, 7.30 morning report followed by ward round. I enjoy the ward round, it is a great learning experience for me and I like to think I am a bit of help to the medical officer (pro-active nurses are few and far between here in Malawi). As soon as we got onto the ward the first thing that hit us was the stench – gangrene, there is nothing like it and once smelt never forgotten. It catches you in the back of the throat and I was struggling not to vomit but my Dad’s words came flooding back “mind over matter” and I managed to stay for the whole consultation (even the medical officer did the consultation from the door of the side room). I asked if this elderly gentleman was going to theatre today to have his leg amputated. I was informed that they still needed to do some tests such as checking his blood group and checking his Hb. I pointed out that he was clearly going to die if we didn’t do something quickly. “Hmmm” said the medical officer
The following morning my colleague went to morning report, she came back to me saying there is an old man who needs his leg amputating but his Hb is 4.8 and they wont operate without him being transfused but the hospital does not have any blood. The medical officer says he is going to die! I felt so cross, to lose a life for the sake of a unit of blood is ridiculous. I am sure those who know me well can imagine me marching off to the ward; thrusting my arm at the medical officer and saying take my blood! Well, that is what I did, assuring him that I am O negative (for those who don’t have a medical background that means that anyone can have my blood). A few test later, mum, you will be pleased to know that I don’t have syphilis, HIV or hepatitis, and a unit of blood was donated. I then carried my blood, still warm, to the ward and watched until the transfusion was started (I wanted to make sure there were no delays). Two hours later the 89 year old man was on his way to theatre. Two hours after that he was returning to the ward minus the offending leg. I obviously followed his progress quite keenly; I had a lot invested in this man. I am delighted to report that he is doing really well, and should be on his way home shortly.
Following my donation, my colleague and some Dutch student nurses that we have at Trinity at the moment also decided to donate, all of their blood has now been used. I have donated many times in the past but have never seen first hand what that pint of blood means to someone else. It was an amazing feeling; that man would have died for the want of a pint of blood