I have been a regular blood donor from the age of 18. I have had the opportunity and privilege of donating not only in Guyana, but also in the five countries that I have called home in the past 12 years.
I went to the blood bank on the 23rd of November, 2011, to donate a unit of B+ blood for someone in a critical condition in the High Dependency Unit of the GPHC. I was appalled at the treatment that I received. The receptionist was conducting her own conversation with a young gentleman when I arrived. I had to wait until that was finished before I was attended to.
From what I could hear, the conversation had nothing to do with donating blood. After giving her my donation card, I was asked to sit and wait. I sat and waited for 20 minutes before I was called in to have the pre-donation screening done.
The phlebotomist weighed me, took my temperature, my blood pressure, pulse and Hb. She was very abrupt and automated and spoke in a very patronising manner. I was informed that my pulse was high and that I had the option of either waiting for a few minutes to see if it would go down, or coming back later on in the day. Trying to decide what to do, I inhaled deeply. The phlebotomist immediately asked me if I was sick. I replied “no” and that I was feeling fine. She kept insisting that I must be sick. After a few minutes of going back and forth, she decided that I had “a severe viral infection” and that I was not a suitable candidate to donate blood.
When I left, I stopped to ask the receptionist for the name and number of a supervisor that I could have spoken to about the incident. I was informed that she would not give me the name or the number and that if I had a problem, that I could explain it to her, and she would see what she could do. I again explained that I wanted to speak to someone in charge at the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS). I was told that this was not possible. This was the only reason that I was given – that it simply was not possible.
The National Blood Transfusion Service should be very proud of having such skilled staff working for them – skilled enough to diagnose someone with a serious viral infection just by looking at them. I have worked closely with many doctors and lab technicians and none of them possesses the skills that this phlebotomist has. The GPHC would save a lot of money by just asking her to look at patients and diagnose what they are suffering with, be it viral, bacterial, fungal or otherwise.
As we are constantly being told, the blood stores at the NBTS are dangerously low – this is why I went to donate the unit of B+ for that patient in the HDU; there was no B+ blood available. The staffers that presently work at the NBTS are either not trained, inexperienced or lack confidence in their abilities.
My husband is also a voluntary blood donor. On his last visit, it took the staff 1 hr. 15 min., to get one unit of blood out of his body, 15 minutes of which were spent trying to get the needle in his vein.
He is physically very active and as a result, his veins are very pronounced. His arm was swollen and he had difficulty moving it for six days after. He also had a hematoma around the puncture site, which lasted for 11 days after the donation.
The last time my mother, another regular voluntary donor, tried donated she was told that her body temperature was too low – she was working all day in an air conditioned office and then drove to the blood bank in an air conditioned car, both of which can lower the body temperature.
What is the point of having campaigns to encourage people to donate blood if the organization and staff are not skilled to deal with patients? Blood donation is an invasive and traumatic procedure. The staff need to be extremely compassionate and skilled in what they are doing, to make the patients feel at ease and confident when they come to make their donation.
I personally know 14 people who donate blood regularly who have said that they will not be donating blood again at the NBTS because of the service. That is 56 units of blood a year that the NBTS will have to do without.
I wish the blood bank all the best in its upcoming campaigns, but I can safely say that it will be a long time before they are graced with my presence as a voluntary donor.
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