On Wednesday evening, as I entered my cabin to head to bed after a long day of work, I saw a little slip of paper on my door saying my blood cross-matched for a patient in surgery and I needed to be on ship and available on Thursday. Now, the way the ship works is that we are a 'walking blood bank' meaning that when blood is needed, the lab techs will call someone with the same blood type and draw blood and immediately take it to the person in need and transfuse. At orientation, if you're interested ingiving blood, they collect your information and later a blood sample to be sure you're healthy and check your blood type. They keep this information in the system, so when they get a patient who has potential to bleed out, they leave a notice on your door letting you know. If you're going to be off ship, you have to call and let them know. Otherwise, you're pretty much expected to be free and ready.
This slip on my door scared me, but also got me a bit excited. I got to work and let the person in charge know. We were both a bit wary since we were down to 3 people to make food for 400, but we decided to just feel it out. I got to lunch and I came down with a bit of a sore throat in the morning, so I was hoping I just wouldn't give that day. Then, one of my co-workers came to me and said “the lab called and said they need you immediately.” My hear leaped. Thankfully I was finished my lunch. I ran to a phone, no answer. I found someone in scrubs looking for me, and I told him the work situation. Then he told me calmly, but with urgency that someone was bleeding out on the OR table- I don't have much of a choice. He told me to go tell my boss and get down to the lab. So, I did.
It was all a bit of a blur, yet at the same time I felt like things should be happening faster. I was laying in the ICU where they take blood, and they took my temp and my blood pressure, then hooked me up. They thought they might have a hard time getting my vein, but luckily the amazing 'vampire' got it on the first try. She said I pumped it out pretty fast- not as fast as the people after me, but pretty good. As my blood was being sucked out of me, I asked the resident vampire(blood tech) who was in surgery that needed it. She said that it was a girl who is 19 and has been to the ship before in Togo for surgery. She's back to work on some more of her facial tumors. She said that last time this girl took 10 people(10 units of 550ccs) of blood because she bled out so bad. This really put in perspective the need this girl had at the same time I was being drained of my blood. I honestly felt blessed by the opportunity to help this girl live. In the end there ended up being 4 of us donors. One of my friends who donated as well came to me and said, “Isn't it weird that all of our blood is in this one person?” We're all connected in this one girl... that's amazing.
The vampire gave me some oreos and a coke(quite the perk) to get my blood sugar back up, but they needed to get the next person in(I was number 1), so they wheeled me in an office chair into the ICU where patients were to watch a movie(Fly Away Home) until I felt up to going back to work. At this point it was just after 1pm. Break had just finished, but I knew I couldn't rush it. So, I just relaxed, ate and drank. A nurse was there keeping an eye on me(I was bit woozy... thus the not letting me stand up thing), and she walks in with a 6 year old girl and a little boy who couldn't be any older than 1 ½ year old. She puts him on my lap and says, “I hope you don't feel like I'm dumping them on you- just thought you'd like to have some kids to play with!” Man- I don't even know this nurse well, but she sure did know somehow that babies make everything better in my eyes. So cute. After a while I headed back to work. While I was walking upstairs, I saw the lab guy who found me earlier in the day. He said that they've already put my blood and the girl who gave after me, but they were working on getting more. He then thanked me for giving.
On my way to getting back to work, I had a few detours. On my way back up the steps(from deck 3 to 5) I got incredibly dizzy. I knew I had to sit. I was standing talking to my friend at reception, and all of a sudden I realized I wasnt breathing well- I was breathing very quickly. Then I got really dizzy and realized I reeallly needed to sit. So, I went and retrieved my mango I was going to eat at lunch, but saved for after, ate that, drank some super sugary juice and took it easy. Don't worry- I called work and let them know:)
Once I got back to work, I was wishing I could just go back to my room and sleep it off. I was just plain exhausted. Everyone kept me busy with small tasks- like cubing cheese and cutting pineapple. That's not the side of the kitchen I'm normally found on, but lifting 30 pound trays of spaghetti was just a poor choice at this time.
At the end of the night, after I was told that the girl was doing really well and in recovery, I was a friend's birthday party. One of her friends overheard me talking to a little girl about getting bit by a 'vampire' and she asked if I gave blood that day. I said yes and she said, “Oh my gosh- thank you so much. I worked with the patient and I'm so glad they were able to get blood. She's doing great- I just visited her. She's in the ICU, but we knew that would be the case.. really.. thank you.” I was speechless.
Later that day, I was sitting in Community Meeting just really really happy, and I couldn't figure out why I was so happy. Then I remembered what had happened earlier in that day and I was really thankful that God decided to use me that day. It was in incredible way to be needed- I never imagined I'd get to give blood directly to someone, but I was given the chance. I'm really hoping I get to do this again.