Blood for transfusions is in short supply in Africa. If someone wants a surgery in a local hospital, the family is often required to get the blood and other supplies (needles, bandages, etc.) themselves. There may be two or three blood banks in a whole country and those often with limited supplies.
So, on the ship we have our own blood bank – the crew! Although there is a very small refrigerator aboard, it cannot hold very much. Consequently, our lab aboard the ship waits until there is patient scheduled for a surgery that is likely to require a transfusion. They then call the registered donors with a matching blood type.
This week, I got my first call to donate blood. (Apparently, my blood type is quite rare in Africa.) After screening, they drew my blood and then it was taken to the Operating Room area for a surgery that morning. The recipient was a man with a very large facial tumor (see Earnest’s story below).
What a feeling to be able to donate so directly to keeping someone alive!
Here is a photo of Ernest, after he had a similar surgery to the man to which I gave blood, at the moment when he saw his face without a tumor for the first time. “I’m so handsome! My family isn’t going to believe it is me!” After more than a decade of weight hanging from his face, his load was lightened and he no longer carries the shame and embarrassment that once threatened his life.