Hi All! Today's questions comes from Susan Fields!
She asks, "Is there a blood type/quality/whatever that would make it very difficult to find a donor? Is it possible they could do this transfusion right there locally, from one student to another?"
There are 30 ways to type blood, but the most important, for the sake of transfusion, is the ABO and Rh (+ or -) typing. There are eight blood types (see cartoon above) based on the special proteins found on the surface of the blood cells and the antibodies we make.
You can't just give blood willy-nilly (who the heck is Willy Nilly?) from one person to another. We carry antibodies to people with different types. In fact, some mothers carry antibodies to their own baby's blood types and must receive a special injection just before giving birth or the baby's blood will get attacked by the mom's antibodies during birth.
To make a long, long lesson in blood typing short, here are a few important factoids:
AB+ blood are universal recipients. So all eight groups above can give blood to this type of person. They are 3.5% of the US population.
O- are universal donors. This blood can be given to any of the eight above without causing a reaction. O- are about 6.6% of the population.
AB- is the rarest blood type. Only 0.6% of the population have this. However, they can receive blood from A-, B-, AB-, or O- people.
So to answer Susan's question? She needs a recipient AND a donor that are relatively rare. In the end, the best answer was that both characters needed to be O-.
As for Susan's second question? In the modern world, there are no direct person-to-person transfusions anymore. It's simply unheard of now (the last time I saw it was in the movie Bram Stoker's Dracula). Blood must be tested for all kinds of diseased first, like HIV, hepatitis, among others, and blood must be tested for compatibility first.
But in a small town that's searching for a difficult blood type, it's easy to imagine that the blood bank lab could "slip" the identity of the donor to the recipient. And these days, people do bank blood for themselves or family members to plan for surgery.
Okay, on last thing. I get asked this all the time during my day job. Can you ask your doctor to figure out what blood type you are, just in case?
Answer? Not unless you want to pay out of pocket for it. Docs only check blood type for two reasons: when they expect to transfuse you (before surgery, or during a bad illness), or when you are pregnant, to plan for the possibility of incompatible Rh factors. And of course, you can donate blood to find out!
So if you really want to know, and you've already had a baby, your OB's office will probably have that on record. For the rest of you, you'd have to wait until (gulp) you needed surgery or (bigger gulp) you were in some sort of trauma or succumbed to an illness that caused a terrible anemia. Or if you qualify, donate blood!
Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice!
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