Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My blood transfusion story

At 10 weeks post-op, I've decided to tell my blood donation/transfusion story. I tell it only to make the point that we as individuals have to be proactive and cautious about our medical care.

The day of my surgery, I had provided Tacoma General Hospital the paperwork that went along with my autologous blood donation. (I had donated two units of my own blood.)

On Day 1 post-op, the nurses came into my room and said I needed a blood transfusion because my hemotocrit numbers were low. "Great," I thought. "Maybe I won't be so tired."

They brought me a piece of paper to sign; it was a consent to receive blood. Drugged up and extremely tired, I scrawled my name across the bottom. The first unit of blood went in. As the nurse was hanging up the second unit, she mentioned something about making sure I wasn't having a reaction to the transfusion. My heart hit my gut.

"This isn't my blood?" I managed to say. We looked at each other, fear reflecting in the other's eyes.

To make a long story short, I was given blood from the blood bank due to a number of problems, starting with my surgeon's office, transferring to United Blood Services (where I donated) and lastly with the hospital. The consent form I was given did not specify that I was receiving blood from the bank, so even if I had read it over, I wouldn't have thought anything of it.

Though I was a little scared at the idea of not receiving my own blood, I was mostly upset and angry that the mistake could have happened at all. The hospital was slow to apologize and sent in some top-dog guru who tried to prevent us from suing but mostly just made me more tired and upset.

Though the blood I received is tested thoroughly, for peace of mind, I am now being tested for Hepatitis B and C and HIV. The first round of tests came back negative, and I will be re-tested at six months.

My point in telling this story: Do not sign anything you do not understand. Ask questions. Don't be afraid to tell health-care professionals something you think they already know. Assume nothing.

It stinks that mistakes like this can happen, but unfortunately, it's the nature of the medical profession. Please take care of yourselves as best you can.


German Shepard aka Kris said...

My god how frightening, especially right after such major surgery.

Since I'm going to be doing the self-donate thing in the next week or so, preparing for my hip replacement in (hopefully) late February - is there an option for a healthcare proxy for that sort of thing? Assuming my husband remains at the hospital with me for much of the time I'm there...

I see my surgeon tomorrow. I'll be asking about this for sure!!! Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Shelley said...

When I first read about your blood transfusion issues I made sure to ask when I donated blood if tis could happen. I will be asking again at the hospital if I have to get blood for some reason. Thanks for sharing because it has helped a lot of people.

alice said...

Hi Cassie,
because of your incedent I asked about my blood before i went into surgery with Mayo at TG. There was a big flurry and scare with the staff telling me they never recieved my blood and that I didn't have the correct paper work that they needed. But I persisted and after a few phone calls on their part worked it out, and I got my blood back a few days after surgery...thank you for telling your story and preparing others esp. @ Tacoma General.We will get them trained eventually. alice