Meat-Eating Babies

Baby was starting to walk, holding on to furniture as he toddled around. This time he missed his grip on the coffee table and hit his mouth on it’s edge. The cut on his gums bled an alarming amount, to the parents.  After examining the baby, I reassured them that he didn’t need stitches, and though it looked like he bled a lot- he had smeared blood all over his cheeks and forehead- he didn’t need a transfusion. The parents breathed a sigh of relief, and Dad was even able to crack jokes- “it looks like he’s been eating raw meat!” Everyone laughed, horror-movie baby joining in.

We see all kinds of bleeding kids in the Pediatric Emergency Department. The vast majority of them have insignificant blood loss. The sight of blood unnerves many parents, especially when their children paint their faces and clothes red. Nosebleeds are a common ER visit, with blood “pouring” from kids’ noses. They’ve usually stopped bleeding by the time we see them, and never need transfusions. Mouth injuries, forehead and scalp lacerations also look terrible, but aren’t life-threatening.

Some children do need blood transfusions.  Kids in car or ATV crashes sometimes  injure blood-filled internal organs like the liver or spleen, and need blood.  Occasionally a kid will crash his bike or skateboard into a door or window, lacerate a major vessel in the arm, and need blood and surgery too.

Trauma patients aren’t the only ones who need blood products.  Children with certain cancers need occasional transfusions when chemotherapy, or the cancer itself, impedes their ability to make their own blood. Some NICU babies need transfusions, and patients with Sickle Cell Disease needs lots of blood throughout their lives.

Unfortunately, nowadays blood donations are way down. The Coronavirus Pandemic has kept people away from blood banks, afraid that going will put them at risk. There’s been far fewer blood drives at schools and places of work, as these have been closed.  Now Acadiana’s blood supply, and the national supply, are critically low. Yet people’s need for blood hasn’t diminished.  The message is clear: Do something life affirming, GIVE BLOOD!

I was riding my bike and hit a gravelly patch. That’s slippery for bike tires, and I’d previously taken that turn gingerly.  This time I was a little too fast and cutting a little too tightly. Seeing what was coming, I thought, “Darn, this is going to hurt!” Splat!  I got up, inspected the bloody scrapes on my right side, concluded I was okay, and kept riding. I must have looked a mess though, judging by the alarmed looks on people’s faces.  I got home, showered, dressed my wounds, and went to work, thinking nothing more of it.  Until I was seeing a girl who had been in a car crash. She paused in her account of the crash, eyes bugging out at me- “what happened to your elbow!?”

Bleeding alarms many people, like the parents of our baby above, who smeared blood from his mouth injury all over his face. However, very few skin, mouth, or nose injuries require transfusions. Like we discussed above, there’s children who do- cancer patients, kids with Sickle Cell Disease, traumas, and some NICU babies.

The Pandemic has cut blood donations to critical lows.  People have stayed home, rightfully so. Going out and mixing with others is a risk for catching Coronavirus. But this means they’ve been staying away from blood donation centers and blood drives.  There’s been fewer places to hold blood drives too, with closed schools and businesses.

Other reasons why donations are down: weekly hurricanes!. People have been prepping for storms, riding them out, and then busy with the inevitable clean-up. Donations have been down too because of the lagging economy. Blood drives depend on businesses with full stocks of employees ready to donate. Since the economy has tanked, many businesses closed or are running on skeleton crews.

While blood donations are down, needs are not.  Blood banks, like Vitalant on Bertrand Drive, are super-safe places to visit.  They’ve always been keen to avoid infections; now they’ve gone many extra miles to be sure COVID isn’t a risk for donors.

Want to volunteer for something critically needed, and life affirming? GIVE BLOOD!

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