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CNHS students give life-altering blood transfusions at the Chimala Mission

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nurse student with transfusion patient

By Paige Adams

This past summer, Assistant Professor of Nursing Shawna Hood from Oklahoma Christian took eight students from the College of Natural Health Sciences to volunteer at the Chimala Mission Hospital in Chimala, Tanzania. During their stay, they were able to put their medical knowledge and servant-hearts to the test when two emergency blood transfusions were needed.

The first transfusion was needed for a boy who contracted pneumonia and was severely anemic with low hemoglobin and in severe respiratory distress. The hospital’s blood bank was empty, so staff was scrambling to find the blood necessary to perform the life-saving transfusions. The overseeing doctor asked all of the students to get their blood cross-matched and tested.

During this process, senior nursing student Bailey Neece discovered she was a match and donated her blood. Unfortunately, the little boy passed away the next day, but she said the experience was something special and unlike anything she would get to do in the U.S.

“It was a God-thing because all of the blood needed for the transfusion was matched within members of our group,” Neece said. “When we give blood in the U.S., we don’t know who it goes to; you don’t get to see the blood you donate hung and being used for treatment. It was cool to see the blood go to the kids and talking to the families who were wondering why someone they didn’t know would be willing to donate blood.”

The next day, a 5-year-old boy came in who had contracted meningitis and was unconscious upon arrival. A blood transfusion was needed for him to be moved to a larger facility to treat his neurological condition.

Senior medical laboratory science student Kate Van Scyoc discovered she was a match through the cross-matching and immediately volunteered to be a donor.

“I want to do blood banking when I graduate, so getting to see that side of blood donations and transfusions was a really unique experience,” Van Scyoc said. “I’ve never been able to give blood before; it was special because I was the only one who was able to donate to this boy.”

When the patient came in, he was still unconscious and mostly responded to pain. After the transfusion, he regained consciousness. He was then able to eat, take his medicine on his own and was responsive to his name. On the last day, Van Scyoc returned to the hospital, joined by another member of the Chimala Mission who translated for her so she could speak with the mother and say goodbye.

“Getting to talk to the mother and see the boy after the transfusion was heartwarming and very rewarding,” Van Scyoc said. “It was so special to watch the whole blood transfusion process and see it actually helping someone.”

The photo captures Van Scyoc's reunion with the family she helped by donating her blood.