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Medical Faux Pas

Well, I think I've given blood for the second and final time in my life. A week ago this past Saturday I decided to try giving blood again when the Blood Connection had its bloodmobile at our church for a blood drive. I had given blood several years back and just made it through my unit when I started to have a vasovagal episode. It didn't come as a huge surprise since I had had problems when visiting people in the hospital who were receiving fluids or transfusions. After that incident I decided that maybe I shouldn't give blood again. This latest time, though, I thought maybe the same problem would not recur. However it did. I was able to finish giving my unit of blood and didn't pass out completely, but I felt terrible for the last third of the unit as and for a while afterwards.

The next day, though, I noticed that I had a rash and hives all around the site where they had drawn the blood. The following day it was creeping towards my wrist and my underarm, and the same thing was appearing on my other forearm. Below is a picture of my left arm.

picture of my hives

I took Benadryl before going to bed that night to see if that would calm my allergic reaction. It did basically nothing but make me half-loopy all day Tuesday. I went to see my doctor Wednesday, and we figured out that I was having a reaction to the chlorhexidine gluconate they had used to clean the site where the needle would go in. The nurse had chlorhexidine gluconate on her gloves and touched all over on my left arm during the whole process. There were apparently traces of the substance on the other arm of the chair from previous donors - hence the rash on my right forearm where it had touched the arm of the chair. I'm on Prednisone for one week (nasty stuff!) The rash is finally going away and bothering me much less.

picture of a t-shirt

What's kind of funny is that in two of my French classes in recent weeks we've been talking about various sports in French, one of which was rugby. I told my students that I had seen a t-shirt in France that said, "donnez du sang - jouez au rugby" (that is, give blood - play rugby). We all chuckled about it since rugby is such a rough game. I'm thankful that some are able to give blood with no ill effects, but after my experiences recently, I think the next time I decide to try giving blood, I'll go out for rugby instead!

Yesterday we had some guests for lunch. One is our niece, a nurse in a local ER, and another is a senior nursing major at BJU, currently doing her clinicals. They were talking about how surprised they are at how unfeelingly sometimes medical personnel talk among themselves about their work. It made me think of something in my files that I could post, wanting very much to have something to laugh about concerning medical things.

Things you don't want to hear during surgery

Wait a minute, if this is his spleen, then what's that?

Someone call the janitor--we're going to need a mop.

Bo! Bo! Come back with that! Bad dog!

Hand me that...uh...that uh...thingie.

Oh no! I *know* I had my wristwatch on when I came in here!

Oops! Hey, has anyone ever survived 500 ml of this stuff before?

Everybody stand back! I lost my contact lens!

Could you stop that thing from beating; it's throwing my concentration off.

What's this doing here?

I hate it when they're missing stuff in here.

Better save that. We might need it for an autopsy.

That's cool! Now can you make his leg twitch?

I wish I hadn't forgotten my glasses.

You did WHAT to our car?!

Well folks, this will be an experiment for all of us.

Sterile, schmerile. The floor's clean, right?

Anyone see where I left that scalpel?

OK, now take a picture from this angle. This is truly a freak of nature.

It's gonna blow! Everyone take cover!

Nurse, did this patient sign the organ donation card?

Don't worry. I think it is sharp enough.

Rats! Page 47 of the manual is missing!

FIRE! FIRE! Everyone get out!


I'd love to hear about the experiences, both good and bad, of those who've given blood or received blood.


"Many brave men have died for countries that don't exist any more." - Dr. Drew Conley

=^..^= =^..^=

When the doctor got a bad cut, the nurse said, "Suture self."

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20 Comments on “Medical Faux Pas”

  1. #1 Lara
    on Nov 10th, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    I just had to make an ER run for an allergy recently, so you have my sympathies. That prednisone is some nasty stuff, but at least it’s only for one week.

  2. #2 Tammy
    on Nov 10th, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Your arm reminds of when I had an allergic reaction to sulfa drugs.

    I was unable to give blood for years because we lived in Iceland during the 80’s. It had something to do with mad cow disease. Iceland has been taken off the list so I can donate again.

    I have always had good experiences in donating-sorry no horror stories. Once in the Army I got the day off for donating!

  3. #3 Rob
    on Nov 10th, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    @Lara – Thanks for your sympathies. I’m sorry to hear about your allergic reaction. Hope all’s better by now.

    @Tammy – Actually, it reminded me of when I had to take Celebrex after my first knee surgery, only to learn from it that Celebrex contains sulfa and that I’m allergic to it! I thought I’d crawl out of my skin for a day or so! Wow! Iceland! I didn’t know they had any mad cow scare up there. I’m glad that giving blood goes well for you. It truly is a wonderful gift to give to others, and I wish I could do it with fewer complications. I would still be willing to give to a family member or close friend who needed my healthy O-positive blood, but I think I’m done doing it for the public at large.

  4. #4 Ray
    on Nov 10th, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    The first time I gave blood was in high school. It was a very negative experience as I felt like I was burning up all over. A number of years passed and I gave blood where I worked – not a thing to do everyday, but I figured it would help somebody and it went much better. I learned to never give blood before a meal. I almost passed out. I was *relatively* fine every other time I donated a little after lunch. It was the cookies that did it for me… and joking with my boss’s mom who was a volunteer there for some time.

  5. #5 Rob
    on Nov 10th, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    @Ray – That’s great that you can give blood now. I had eaten a good breakfast earlier that morning and even ate a little snack right before giving, but it *was* right before lunch, come to think of it. I think maybe if they had put my feet up to higher than my head to begin with it might have helped.

  6. #6 Janet
    on Nov 11th, 2008 at 8:37 am

    After being married to a paramedic for 25 years, I have heard a lot of stories that make some people woozy without a needle being in sight!

    As for the way medical professionals talk among themselves, from experience I know that they have to distance themselves from the patient to be able to handle their jobs all the time. They also use humor to dispel the anxiety in the worst of circumstances~especially emergency medical workers! I’ve grown to accept it over the years, but a Christmas party for an EMS system is no place for the faint-of-heart!

    Over the years, for one reason or another, I’ve never been successful in giving a good donation. My daughter keeps trying, she’s at 1 and 1/2 donations this year.This last time her veins were hard to find in spite of a week of heavy water consumption and planning. Oh well! And my dad says he can’t give any of his blood up because all of it is in constant use! 😀 He even gets a little nostalgic about the blood that nurses take for medical tests.

    Rob, I hope the reaction clears up very soon! Thanks for your work and time on this blog!

  7. #7 Rob
    on Nov 11th, 2008 at 10:03 am

    @Janet – I can imagine that the distancing factor would be real – not wanting to take each injury or death too much to heart. The girls were saying that what to them seems like a ministry to people is nothing but a job to some of the people they have worked around … kind of like care-givers not really caring. Don’t know if that makes sense. But I truly can see both sides of the thing – necessary detachment and professionalism vs over-involvement and identification with the sufferer.

    Thanks for the experiences of your family in the blood donation department. It can really vary within families. After my most recent incident I learned from my mom that my dad had tried to give only once and didn’t make it all the way through. My daughter Nora shares our vasovagal responses, yet my son Mark gives blood very well with no problems.

  8. #8 Rhonda
    on Nov 11th, 2008 at 10:03 am

    Like Tammy, I can’t give blood because we lived in Europe during the mad cow outbreak of 2000. But I’m chronically anemic anyway, so nobody wants my blood! Recently I’ve seen a hematologist about the anemia, and while I was waiting for the tech to take 9 vials (or should I say “vile”!) of my blood, she was joking with her co-workers about a recent error she had made. I can tell you her joke did not alleviate any of MY anxiety although it might have done a great deal for hers!

    BTW, Rob, your arm reminds me of my discovery of my reaction to sulfa. But mine was all over my face and neck! Not a pretty sight, I can assure you. I make sure every doctor I see knows of my allergy to sulfa!

  9. #9 Rob
    on Nov 11th, 2008 at 10:13 am

    @Rhonda – That’s terrible about the techs talking like that in front of a patient! They could have at least sedated you first so you wouldn’t hear them! 🙂

    Have you been permanently eliminated from giving blood because of having lived in Europe in 2000, or could you eventually give? It sounds as if that’s not really an issue for the present until you get the anemia cleared up.

    Your comment about the sulfa reaction is right on. That’s what I thought at first when it started to devote since it reminded me of my reaction to Celebrex (see earlier comment on this thread).

  10. #10 Michael
    on Nov 11th, 2008 at 10:18 am

    I’ve never given blood because the thought of it over the years has made me a little woozy. I’ve also heard about other people’s experiences fainting and then losing control of their bodily functions. I have had blood drawn on several occasions. One time they had to take four large vials of my blood. That was difficult. I didn’t pass out, but I do remember the sickening sound of my blood filling those vials.

    I probably should give blood since it’s the right thing to do and since I don’t know of any reasons why my blood would be rejected. Also, I’m type O which is a great type for being a donor and my veins are close to the surface of my skin so it’s not hard to hit a gusher. My wife has the opposite problem. Whenever she has blood drawn it is a real challenge for them to find a vein in her arm.

    Hope you can get off the prednisone has soon as possible.

  11. #11 Rob
    on Nov 11th, 2008 at 10:32 am

    @Michael -Thanks for the wishes! If I remember to take each dose at the right time, I should take my last one at dinner this Wednesday evening. Phew! Yesterday and today I’ve felt really draggy all morning … semi-wretched actually. It dawned on me today why. The pharmacist said I could take Tylenol PM to help me sleep since the Prednisone was making me too hyper to sleep well at night, and now it’s taking all morning for the effects of that to wear off.

    If I ever give blood again, I will for sure remember to have them use Betadine to cleanse the site and I will take towels along to put on the arms of the chair so that I don’t pick up any residue of the chlorhexidine gluconate from previous occupants of the chair. That is, of course, IF I ever give blood again. 🙂 I hope you can do it sometime, Michael. It really is great to know that you are helping save someone else’s life. I guess if soldiers can lay down their lives for their countrymen, we others ought to be willing to endure some personal suffering for others too. I’m really not negative on blood donation and think it’s a great thing to do. I’m just bummed that my experiences have both been less than stellar … this most recent one especially. Maybe this post will inspire others to give who’ve never considered it seriously.

  12. #12 Betty-Ann Crabb
    on Nov 11th, 2008 at 11:19 am

    My Dad was my role model as I was growing up. He gave all the time and held down 3 jobs a lot of the time. He will celebrate his 91st birthday in December. I have been able to give blood with no after effects whatsoever. It gives me a great feeling to know I have helped someone. I also have an allergy to sulfa and I didn’t know it until I had taken my full 10 days of the stuff. Not a pretty sight. It settled in my muscles and gave me tendonitis in my arm and I couldn’t write for a few days. I am glad to know about Celebrex. I usually look up any meds on line before I take anything new.

  13. #13 Emily
    on Nov 11th, 2008 at 11:28 am

    I made one attempt to give blood on campus. It was a busy day and I didn’t pay good attention to the advice about eating beforehand. I began to black out near the end. I asked for some ice to help fight off the light-headedness, but I was given a soft drink instead. Thinking they brought the cold can instead of ice, I tried to put it against my face, and ended by tipping the open drink all down my neck! That woke me right up, but I spent the rest of the day trying to get rid of the stickiness. 😀

  14. #14 Rob
    on Nov 11th, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    @Betty-Ann – That’s great about your dad. I wish I were able to give like that. I think it’s such a neat thing to be able to do. There are so many who would like to give but can’t that it’s great when some can give so easily.

    I’m glad you’re forewarned about Celebrex. That was a real low period in life for me. I had been waiting for surgery for almost two months and my leg was already super swollen. I was a mess after surgery anyway, then I had to the Celebrex/sulfa reaction on top of it.

    @Emily – What a story to look back on with more amusement than you could feel at the time! Do you think you’ll ever try to give blood again, after a good meal? 🙂

  15. #15 Katie
    on Nov 11th, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Your hives picture looks similar to the hives that once covered me as a teenager. I never did know what caused them. Mom read that Chinese Ephedra would help with that sort of skin condition. She lovingly prepared a tea of Chinese Ephedra and unknowingly gave me 14 times a normal adult dosage! The hives didn’t seem to be effected, but the ephedra caused my heart to race so much that I passed out while shopping in Walmart! I later discovered that many heart attacks have been caused by Chinese Ephedra. Thus, Chinese Ephedra is now outlawed by the FDA, but at that time it was readily available in health food stores. Needless to say, my mom was unaware of the side effects of Chinese Ephedra!

  16. #16 Dan Sehested
    on Nov 11th, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    For those who are able to give blood, praise the Lord. I never have. I did play rugby for a couple is years in college though. No blood given then either – just a bone and some pieces of teeth!

  17. #17 Rob
    on Nov 11th, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    @Dan – Maybe I’ll reconsider the rugby after all, especially at my age! 🙂 Give my best to Lyn and the kids.

  18. #18 Nancy
    on Nov 12th, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    As a teacher I always like seeing A+ as my blood type on the donor sheet. Maybe the happiness of that offsets any difficulties from the actual process of giving. My only story is that of receiving a “thank you ” key chain in the mail from the local blood bank when I hit a donation milestone. I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to be in the Gallon Club. Hmm. I’m sure you can make some interesting comment about that. Hope you are on the mend.

  19. #19 Deb
    on Nov 13th, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Hives, rashes, and allergic reactions–the story of my life! Oh, Rob, I really can sympathize with your distress and hope all is back to normal by now. My worst case had the doctor taking pictures of my swollen arm to show his students! He was a professor at a local college and surely seemed more interested in a speciman for his next class than he was on seeing me as a patient. (I should copy and paste your list and send it to my doctor son who’s studying general surgery.) 🙂

  20. #20 Rob
    on Nov 15th, 2008 at 9:52 am

    @Deb – Wow! You were bad-off enough to be featured as pictures in a medical class. I’ve often felt bad for people whose pictures appear in medical books, journals, and classrooms. Was your face blurred in the picture or completely removed? 🙂