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Down Memory Lane - July 1987

Eric Ching remembers the last week in July, 1987.

As some of my colleagues working at the Foothills Medical Centre and the Calgary Red Cross in the 1980’s, we chose to take up part time work “on the other side”. 

I worked 4-8 PM, 2-3 times weekly at the Calgary Red Cross after my day job at the Foothills. On Tuesday July 28, 1987, I was greeted by my colleague at the Red Cross at 4 PM and she said, ”I am glad that you’re here this afternoon!”

On the bench, there was a stack of panel worksheets and three 10 ml clots with no serum left. My colleague told me that the samples were taken from a young indigenous mom who was having postpartum hemorrhage with hemoglobin of less than 60 g/L. The patient was from a nearby town south of Calgary. Four units were requested STAT that morning. Although the bleeding had stopped, the attending physician insisted his patient needed to be transfused ASAP. While the shift change briefing was going on, the doctor called and asked if the blood was ready for his patient. I said it may take hours or days before we could find blood for her. He sounded a little annoyed and said, “I’ll use our O neg unmatched then!” I asked him to be patient and not to use the so-called “universal donors” as they were incompatible. He would get a call from our medical director.

I rimmed the clot and salvaged 6 drops of serum. I examined the panels and realized all 50+ panel cells were 2-3+ and her autologous control was negative.I then went to the rare antisera collection and hoped one of those antisera to high incidence antigen would not react with the patient’s red cells. I don’t remember how many but included -k,-Kpb, -Jsb, , -Lub, -Lan,- Vel,- Coa, etc.

I got a break! Her cells were negative with anti-Vel! I called our medical director to discuss the case with the patient’s doctor to see if she could wait for us to get Vel negative units from across the country. Three frozen Vel negative reagent red cells were dialyzed and unfortunately two were 1+ with patient’s serum. 
The two reactive Vel – red cells were P1+ and the Vel- P1- was negative. It was likely that the second antibody was anti-P1.

While we were trying to get at least two Vel- P1- frozen blood units sent from other centres, the patient checked herself out in the following morning!

Three days later, on Friday, July 31, 1987, I went to Red Cross after Foothills at 4 PM. 15 minutes after starting my shift, we got a call from Edmonton Red Cross - they asked us to send as many units as possible by airbus because a tornado had just touched down on a south side trailer park with multiple fatalities and casualties. We had to call air traffic control to ask the PWA airbus to wait and we had to frantically pack and issue over 200 units (no computer in those days) and called the city police to escort our driver!

Moral of the lesson: don’t take up a part time job unless you have to!!!
PS. I wonder if my colleagues in Edmonton at CBS or U of A may recall their harrowing experience of that afternoon.

As always, your comments are encouraged!!


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