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This site is for student nurses or nurses starting out. Letters to a Young Nurse are blog posts written like letters to help you find your way and make your journey as a nurse less difficult. 


O – Event, “O So Needed”

My name is JoAnn Wilson and I am in charge of the department that collects platelets, plasma and red cells with automated machines.  I liked to take a few minutes to tell you why I am here at the Blood Center.

In my previous job I went to over 50 hospitals in the Bay area for 5 years. I got to perform a really special procedure that took out a patient’s plasma and/or red cells and replaced them with blood that was donated. These procedures take out the defective antibody or cell and replace it with good and healthy blood from a stranger just like you. I had the privilege of walking into  patient’s room who were very, very sick, some close to death, some on ventilators and unable to move. By the end of the course of these treatments I was privileged to see all of these patients walk out of the hospital after days or weeks of these procedures. Do you know what an amazing experience it is to watch a patient be taken off a ventilator and told the crisis is over? Do you know what an incredible feeling it is to see a 17 year old boy completely paralyzed go back to school and his life? I got to have those feelings everyday and I want you to know that every time you donate blood you are part of that experience.

We have a slogan here, “give blood, save lives “which you never get to see. I was on the other side seeing lives saved. Let me give you a real life example from my past. There was a young woman named Maria who had to have plasma exchange treatments minutes after the birth of her daughter. Her platelets were being shredded because of a deficient antibody that is in the plasma. When I treated Maria her platelets were 5,000 not in the normal range of 150-400,000. Maria had these treatments everyday using 15 units of plasma. She was in the hospital for 50 days. During her stay she used 750 units of plasma. She also had to have red cell transfusions using another 25 units and her tiny little girl had to have platelet infusions to keep her alive. When Maria walked out of the hospital cradling her baby girl the total number of blood products used was over 800 units. Her blood type was O- and every time you donate you not only save a woman like Maria but you save her daughter also. Maria could be your mother, your sister, your aunt, your best friend.  Last week the Transfusion Service liaison called to tell us that there was a woman in the OR just like Maria. Now I am on the other side of the equation here and I have a chance to contribute to this woman’s life in another way. That is why I am here in the Blood Center – to tell strangers that your sister, mother, aunt, best friend needs you today.  I am here to tell you that your father, brother, son, uncle, grandfather needs you today. It is a huge world that we live in but we have a chance to help people in our community when they need us the most. If there weren’t any plasma or red cells or platelets for Maria when she was sick a woman and her daughter would have died.

I am here to tell you that blood doesn’t appear magically when it is needed the most. And it’s not an easy thing to give away.  When you donate on an automated machine you have to spend more time and put up with more things to give us the products that we need to save lives.  So when you are sitting in those chairs, giving away this precious commodity please think of the patients that will walk out of the hospital tomorrow because of your time, sweat and tears given today.

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