Want to learn patience?

Woutertjie, Carien and I finally went for the full blood count that should’ve happened on Monday already.  His white cell count is 1.1 and neutrofils 0.7 – we are firmly back in isolation.  His platelet reading was 70 but since he is bruised all over* Cristina decided that he should get a platelet transfusion.  His platelet count will drop some more in the days to come so we are pre-empting.

Sharon (our paediatric oncology nurse) phoned at 12:00 to tell me that Cristina wanted Boeta to get a platelet transfusion.  I already signed a temporary discharge form for in case we needed it and left it with her, so I phoned the hospital to open a file so long and Sharon did the paperwork.  They can’t request blood products from the blood transfusion service unless they have a file number.  Once you open a file at hospital they assume responsibility for your safety.  Therefore, if we want to go home and wait for the transfusion to be ordered and delivered we have to sign a temporary discharge, absolving the hospital of responsibility.

Either way.  At 12:00 Sharon put in a request for a mega unit of platelets.  By 16:00 she phoned to say that it was still not ready but she would let me know when it was.  At 20:15 Iola, the night sister, phoned to say that the platelets arrived.  And through it all we didn’t get upset or impatient once.  Why?  Let me tell you.

The blood service keeps lots of blood products in stock.  Full blood, plasma, red cell concentrate (this is what Boeta gets when his Hb drops) and small units of platelets.  Each hospital keeps a couple of units of blood for emergencies.  But for our purposes the blood gets ordered from the blood services depot and then sent to the hospital.  A unit of red cell concentrate costs about R800 (a loaf of bread is about R10) – since donors don’t get paid for donating and the blood service is a non-profit organisation, all of the cost is as a result of processing and testing. 

Sometimes we get the red cell concentrate within 2 hours.  Sometimes it is more like 4 hours.  And then it takes another 4 hours to infuse.

Platelets are a different story.  It takes many many hours to get ready but runs in within 1 hour.  The onco-children get extra large units of platelets, known as mega units.  These cost R7500.  Since platelets can only be stored for 5 days it makes no sense to keep these mega units in storage.  Chances are it is going to go off before it is needed.  So whenever there is a request for a mega unit, the blood service has to call up a platelet donor.  The donor then needs to get to the WPBTS head office where the cell separation takes place.  It takes 2 hours for the process – the blood runs from the donor, through a cell separator and then the platelet depleted blood goes back into the donor.  Two needles, in other words.  After the donation the platelets need to go through the usual safety testing.  After that it needs to get collected from the head office in Pinelands and transported to the hospital.  No wonder it takes that long. 

The first couple of times when we were waiting and waiting and waiting for platelets I got quite impatient.  Until I heard how it works.  Now I am so grateful that somewhere in Cape Town someone gave up a large portion of their day to donate cells to keep my son healthy.  To that nameless, faceless person:  Thank you.  From the bottom of my heart.


*Boeta has rediscovered his love of Buzz Lightyear.  He has been jumping from the armrests on the couches shouting “to infinity and beyond” this whole week.  And he has been crashing his plastic motorbike (into Carien – you should see her bruising) and falling his butt off so I’m not overly surprised at the extent of his bruising.  I’m amazed that it wasn’t worse!  LOL!

7 Responses

  1. bly julle klink beter

  2. For a long time slightly misheard the Buzz Lightyear tagline. He would yell (sometimes with really funny timing): To Infinity…en sy HOND*!

    (” to infinity…and his dog”!)

  3. Yay for the nameless soul in Cape Town 🙂

  4. That is very interesting and thanks for teaching me something today. We have some very selfless people out there that give up their time and part of themselves to help someone out that they will probably never meet. Amazing!

  5. Thanks for explaining the process.. the wait now makes so much more sense! Which blood group is boeta?

  6. How does one become a platelet donor, Suzanne? I bet there are more people out there that would do it if they
    1. Read this post
    2. Knew how

  7. Hi Janet, Suzanne (and everyone),
    In the Western Cape the Western Province Blood Transfusion service requires regular blood donors who must be between 17 and 65 years of age, weigh more than 50 kilograms and live a safe and healthy lifestyle.

    According to their website platelet (aphaeresis) donors are usually recruited from the regular donor pool, but are then placed on a completely separate panel and no longer donate whole blood. Platelet donors are often required to be available at short notice and therefore should have their own transport and be able to spend two hours at each donation session. After I had donated blood regularly for a couple of years, I was asked if I would become a platelet donor, I found out that donations can only take place at the Pinelands head office during office hours and take quite long. They also said a donor should have large, good veins because they draw out the whole blood, retain the plasma and/or platelets and return the rest, but my veins aren’t good enough for that!

    For more information on becoming a donor:
    WBTS website: http://www.blood.org.za
    Tel: 021-5076300
    Email: info@wpbts.org.za
    For more information about aphaeresis donation:
    Tel: 021-5076396 or use the same email as above.


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