Emma relies on blood donors to save lives

Emma relies on blood donors to save lives

As a practice development nurse specialising in both surgery and haematology, Emma has seen the life-saving impact blood donors can have on the patients in her care.

For Emma, nursing just felt like a natural fit. She had always been a caring person and medicine allowed her to utilise her diagnostic and investigative skills to help people in their time of need. Throw in the fast-paced world of cancer treatment and Emma found a career as challenging as it is rewarding.

During her time in nursing, Emma has worked in haematology wards, oncology wards and most recently in the surgical oncology ward. As a healthcare worker who specialises in the treatment of cancer, administering blood products is an everyday experience. 

Blood products are such an essential component of cancer treatment that over one-third of all whole blood donations are used in the care of people living with cancer. From surgery to chemotherapy, blood donations have a role to play. Emma explains, “We give blood transfusions regularly to save people’s lives, whether it is due to a haematological malignancy, pre or post-surgery or as part of a treatment regimen.”

Despite what Hollywood would have you believe, not all blood donations are used in transfusions. In her role as a surgical oncology nurse, Emma also administers red blood cells, platelets, fresh frozen plasma, cryoprecipitate and granulocytes as well as blood-based medications including immunoglobulin (IVIg) and Factor VIII. 

In some circumstances, doctors and nurses will administer a combination of these products. Emma recounts one experience where “…a patient who had surgery for a gastrointestinal cancer became very pale and lethargic after four days. Blood tests found their haemoglobin to be low, but subsequent blood transfusions did little to bring it up to an acceptable level. After multiple scans that showed very little – an MRI found a slow gastrointestinal bleed. Fresh frozen plasma and red blood cells were given intermittently to bring their haemoglobin up. Further tests found the patient to have Von Willebrand disease - a clotting disorder. Factor VIII plasma was administered, and the patient survived.”

In total, Emma’s team administered four different types of blood products during treatment. Those four products were created using the donations of countless donors from across Australia. There’s no way of knowing how many donors were involved in saving the patient’s life, but we do know it wouldn’t have been possible without them – including Emma, who has nothing but praise for Lifeblood’s donor community,  “Lifeblood – you are amazing!  All those donation centres dotted about the place make a huge difference to my patients and their families – Thank you!”

If you want to help nurses like Emma save lives, book a donation between Mon 8 April and 12 May and score a limited-edition artist-designed bandage celebrating Australia’s Healthcare workers.

Ready to give life?

I'm new

I've donated before