Blood Transfusion - What to Expect
Blood transfusion is a procedure in which blood is transferred from a bag to a patient’s blood vein via an intravenous (IV) line. Reasons for blood transfusions can vary. In my case, I have anemia. I didn't know that my blood level was below 5 while the normal range is 11 to 12 until my doctor called me one morning and ordered me to go for a blood transfusion. I didn't want to have a blood transfusion because of all the scary risks might be associated with it. So I refused and requested for using iron pill instead. My doctor's response was, "I can't force you to have blood transfusion. But I strongly recommend you to have the blood transfusion this time because with the blood level this low you are compromising your heart and you could have a heart attack at any time." Since she sounded so serious, I agreed that I would talk to my husband about it and give her a call back later. My husband urged me to listen to my doctor and go for blood transfusion because I have been looking very pale lately. After doing some search on the internet about blood transfusion, I finally told my doctor that I would move forward with the blood transfusion. Here are my experience from my first blood transfusion:
When I arrived in the lobby of the hospital at 6PM, I went to registration desk. My doctor had already faxed over the order for my blood transfusion. I presented my driver's license and insurance card to the worker who helped input all the information into their system. Then she called someone to bring over a wheelchair and asked me to sit in the wheelchair. I told them and I could walk, but they said it's the hospital's policy. So I was wheeled all the way up to my room on third floor.
Preparation for Blood Transfusion
My nurse came in to my room and checked on my blood pressure and oxygen level. Then she drew some blood to do some tests. While I was waiting for the results of my blood tests, another nurse came in and helped me put on two wristbands and gave me a small tray that contained a toothbrush, toothpaste and small box of Kleenex. Do I need them? I thought I would be going home in 2-3 hours. Then I was shocked when my nurse came back with my blood test result and told me that my doctor had ordered four units of blood for me which meant I had to stay at the hospital until the next morning because it would take three hours for each unit of blood to transfuse into me. It also took them a while to prepare the right type of blood for me. Good thing the hospital provided me dinner.
The worst part during the preparation was getting the needle into my vein. I have very small veins. It is very challenging to find the right vein for the needle. The first nurse failed after few attempts and called in another nurse. I braced the pain and luckily the second nurse got the needle in after three tries.
I was asked to take two pills of Tylenol for fever just in case I had a fever during blood transfusion.
What to Expect During A Blood Transfusion
A bag of blood was hung on the top of the IV stand and connected to an IV line which connected to the other end of the needle. First, two nurses confirmed the label readings on the bag that matched with the information on my wrist bands then they slowly released the blood and it started to drip down through the IV. I felt the coolness of the blood. My nurse stayed with me the first 15 minutes and asked if I felt anything unusual and check my skin to make sure there wasn't any allergic reaction that showed on my skin. She also checked my blood pressure, temperature, heart rate and oxygen level and then repeated this every 30 minutes afterward. I was nervous when the blood transfusion started, but became more relaxed after there was no unusual reaction. Going to the bathroom was inconvenient because I had to carefully drag the IV stand with me, but it was manageable.
What to Expect After A Blood Transfusion
After the blood transfusion was done, my nurse disconnected the IV from the needle. She drew some blood from my another arm to see my blood level. When my blood level showed more than 11, my nurse removed the needle from my vein. Then a doctor came in to exam me and to make sure that I was okay to be discharged from the hospital. I was so happy to know that I could drive home by myself, but I have to continue to take iron pill everyday.
It has been four days since the blood transfusion, I noticed some rash developing on my skin where the needle was. It is a bit itchy and I might need to give my doctor a call if it gets any worse.
I saw a minor rush (about 10 tiny red bumps) on my face 4 days after the blood transfusion, so I went to see my doctor. My doctor said the rash on my hand could be my skin reaction to the cleaning soap/alcohol the nurse applied before inserting the needle. And the rash on my face could be because the iron pills I took. I was not that convinced, so I searched on the internet and found Dr. Rakhi Tayal's explanation on healthcaremagic.com: After a few days of blood transfusion, there is breakdown of Red Blood Cells which release the excessive bile. And those excessive bile might deposit under the skin causing red and lumpy rash which will be gone for few weeks. But of cause it is always a good idea to check with a doctor first.