Throughout my time in the Medical Laboratory Science Program at Mayo Clinic, I have examined various body fluids. There was urine in urinalysis, blood in hematology, and pretty much everything from sputum to cerebral spinal fluid in microbiology. However, as I was working with each of these specimens, I found myself viewing them as any ordinary liquid to be tested. I had a hard time reminding myself that these materials came from an actual patient. It wasn’t until I rotated through the Blood Components Laboratory that it actually hit me.
My group started our rotations in the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center. The staff members are energetic and fun, the cookies are absolutely delicious, and donating blood allows you the opportunity to help save lives. Before actually entering the donor center, we were well-educated on donor criteria and how the process flows, but it was completely different to actually see it performed. I had donated blood frequently during college blood drives, but due to being "vertically challenged," I didn’t meet the requirements to be on an apheresis machine. I loved getting the opportunity to "shadow" staff members and have all of my questions answered as a patient was settled in to donate platelets. As I watched the apheresis machine separate out the patient's platelets, I was able to physically see the blood product coming from the individual.
The next day, we went into the Components Lab where all blood products are processed. From storage temperatures to expiration dates, we were given a lot of numbers to memorize as we helped separate whole blood into packed red cells and platelets. While preparing to wash the glycerol from a unit of frozen red cells, I was standing there with this sealed bag of blood in my hands. I remember looking down at it thinking to myself that this unit came from a generous donor, and it’s going to go on to help someone else or maybe even a few patients in need.
Once the unit was processed and ready to go, it was placed in the pneumatic tube to be sent to one of Mayo's hospitals. My classmates and I were excited to send it off. The product that we had helped prepare was on its way to help save lives. Words can’t express how amazing it feels to know that you took part in benefiting someone else’s health. Now, when I see bodily fluids in the laboratory, I see them as a chance to help a patient.