A Call in the Middle of the Night
Copyright 2023 by Fredrick Hudgin
by Kirill Dratsevich at Pexels.
sound asleep when the phone rang. The clock next to the bed said 3:32
AM. Cell phones hadn’t been invented yet. The phone hung on the
kitchen wall of our mobile home.
I answer it?” ran through my head, then I shrugged and walked
to the phone.
your blood type is O-neg? Right?” I recognized the voice of my
wife, a nurse, who was working the graveyard shift at the ER of our
just had a baby born with an Rh incompatibility. It needs a
transfusion immediately, and we can’t use refrigerated blood.
Even with a blood warmer, the doc says fresh blood, right out of a
vein, is best.”
on my way.” I pulled on my clothes and ran to my car. The
hospital was just over a mile away. I’d just finished an EMT
course. As I drove there (way too fast), I reviewed what I’d
learned about Rh incompatibility in newborns. As I remembered it,
when the mother has Rh-negative blood and the fetus growing inside
her has inherited Rh-positive from the father, the mother treats the
fetus’s Rh-positive red blood cells as a foreign substance and
makes antibodies against them that cross over to the baby in the
placenta and destroy the fetus’s red blood cells. When the red
blood cells break down, the infant can turn blueish because there
aren’t enough functioning red blood cells left to carry oxygen
around the infant’s circulatory system. The metabolized red
blood cells may also turn the child yellowish, like jaundice. An Rh
reaction only happens in a second or subsequent Rh pregnancy. A first
Rh-baby only gets the mother’s immune system ready to react to
the second one.
prenatal care should have shown this,” I muttered. “Why
the hell didn’t someone check?”
slid to a stop in a parking spot next to the entrance to the ER and
ran inside. A med-tech was waiting for me.
got everything ready. Please come with me.” She handed me a
gown, cap, and mask, then walked me to the operating room as I
struggled into them. My wife was there, along with the OB doctor and
the newborn. The child was under a warming lamp, gasping for breath
through its oxygen mask with a blue/gray cast to its skin.
down, Fred,” the doc said. “Thanks for coming. I need
your arm. You’re O-neg, right? That’s what your wife told
I pulled up the sleeve of my gown and shirt and presented it to him.
He started swabbing my inner elbow area with an iodine solution. “Why
wasn’t this caught in the prenatal exams?”
from Guatemala. Her husband enlisted six months ago to get US
citizenship and just brought her up. She hasn’t had any
prenatal care beyond a local midwife. This is their second child, and
no one noticed anything about the first one.”
flinched a little as he stuck the needle into my arm. “How do
you transfuse a newborn?” I asked, intrigued.
a newborn’s body only holds a half-pint of blood. So, we put
some in and then take some out. It takes a whole pint to replace most
of the damaged red blood cells.”
the baby is O-pos, and I’m O-neg. Is that OK?”
sure is. O-negs can donate to anyone. O-pos can only donate to Rh-pos
hooked my IV line to a syringe attached to a small metal device with
a lever on top. A second line went straight into the baby’s
umbilical cord. He would slowly draw out a syringe of blood from me,
flip the lever and push it into the baby. Then he’d slowly draw
out a syringe full of blood from the baby and pump it into a pan.
This went on for ten iterations. With each injection of my blood, the
color of the baby gradually went from gray/blue to pink as I watched.
the tenth pump, he checked the child’s vitals and smiled.
“Blood oxygen is 98%, her pulse is down, and her color is much
better. That should do it. Thanks! You just saved this child’s
the child and I were breathing much easier now. I didn’t know
how to react to the doctor’s praise; that wasn’t why I
donated blood. So, I smiled, then drove back home (a lot more
slowly). Since my O-neg blood made me a universal donor (anybody can
receive my blood), I donated as often as I could..
years later, I still wonder how the child developed and what kind of
person she became. Had I saved a future mass murderer or the person
who discovers the cure for cancer? Either way, she now had a chance
to become the person of her future that she didn’t have before.
have continued to donate blood, over ten gallons in total now. I
began while I was in the army during the Vietnam conflict. The
Vietcong Tet offensive of 1968 was in full swing. American casualties
were skyrocketing. They weren’t quite as picky about blood
quality then as they are now. All you really needed was a pulse and a
drop of your blood able to sink into their copper sulfate solution.
HIV/AIDS hadn’t come along yet. The blood collectors now screen
for many diseases before releasing donated blood into the “available”
you do not donate blood, please think about doing it. There is a huge
shortage that got substantially worse during COVID. You will probably
never know who received your blood and if it worked for them. But
now, the Red Cross sends me an email when my blood is used. When I
get that email, I smile, knowing that somewhere, someone has a chance
to continue their life because I took the time to share my blood with
them when they needed it most.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
story list and biography
Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher