I worked in the blood bank one night a week between 6 and 11.
One of my jobs was to draw a unit of blood from a walk-in donor. Another was to service the need of a patient when the floor called for a unit of blood.
When the call for blood came, I had to be sure of the match with the patient, and then I retrieved the blood from the refrigerator.
(In the refrigerator were some units labeled “Knickerbocker.” Yes, we bought blood from the Knickerbocker Bank in New York City where any donor could walk in and donate for $25).
Though I was removed from clinical events in the hospital, I knew that what I did had an impact on patient care. So it all fit with my usual anxiety as a student.
To draw a unit from a donor was different. Unlike the rigorous screening of today, donors could simply walk in to donate.
All they required was a pulse, a type and cross match and the time.
One night, the AMC chief resident in Gynecology came in, not looking for $25, just wanting to benefit someone.
I typed his blood, and then prepared him for the phlebotomy. Though trained in the procedure, I was bit apprehensive since he was the chief resident.
Nonetheless, despite my fumbling, he was non-judgmental. He lay on the table.
“You OK?” I asked.
“Sure, sure, go ahead, draw the blood. Let’s go.” He added to my apprehension.
Despite a little shakiness, I hit his huge vein first try. The blood flew, red and pure and quick.
I turned to do some paper work. I turned back to the chief. I was stunned.
His eyes were closed, and he was barely breathing. I shook him, a logical thing for that moment since I had no training in resuscitation.
He opened his eyes with a start. (Thank God).
“What the hell are you doing?” he exclaimed.
“What are YOU doing?” I replied.
“Sleeping! I’m drawing your blood!”
“Yeah, so what? I’m tired. I’ve been up all night delivering babies.”
“How can you sleep with a needle in your arm?” He trusted me. I could have bled him out unwittingly.
“Just keep drawing. Wake me when you finish.” And off to sleep he went, again.
Though he was s sleep deprived, he donated. I was impressed with his dedication.