Stories of Change - A Blood Bank to Save Lives

Veronica Choz is unequivocal about the importance of the new blood bank equipment donated to the Totonicapán Departmental Hospital in Guatemala.  “It is quite literally saving lives.”

Veronica, laboratory coordinator at Totonicapán Hospital, explains why the plasma portion of a blood donation is wasted when a blood bank lacks the equipment to be fully functioning.

Veronica, laboratory coordinator at Totonicapán Hospital, explains why the plasma portion of a blood donation is wasted when a blood bank lacks the equipment to be fully functioning.

While on a recent monitoring visit to the project, René Guerra, Horizons’ Program Manager for the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) project had an opportunity to learn about the impact the new equipment is having on the hospital and the mothers that deliver their babies at it.

Veronica, René Guerra, Program Manage (center left), Sergio Quesada, Mesoamerican Program Financial Officer (Center), and PIES staff tour Totonicapán Hospital Laboratory.

Veronica, René Guerra, Program Manage (center left), Sergio Quesada, Mesoamerican Program Financial Officer (Center), and PIES staff tour Totonicapán Hospital Laboratory.

“The entire time the Hospital of Totonicapán has been functioning, it has relied on support from other hospitals outside the Department (Province) to provide blood plasma and platelets. The hospital could collect a blood donation, however, many parts of the blood had to be wasted.  Once blood is collected from a donor, without the proper equipment, it has to sit in a refrigerator for 48 hours to let the plasma and platelets separate from the red blood cells” explains Veronica. “By the time the plasma and platelets have separated they are no longer usable and had to be thrown out.”

“With the new refrigerated centrifuge donated by the MNCH project, the donated blood is put in the machine and within five minutes the platelets and plasma have been separated from the red blood cells.  Now the plasma and platelets can be frozen for further use.”

The centrifuge donated by the MNCH project was essential to make the blood bank fully functioning.

The centrifuge donated by the MNCH project was essential to make the blood bank fully functioning.

When asked what difference this makes to a woman requiring blood, Veronica responds “When a woman is hemorrhaging, platelets are often given in addition to blood to act as a kind of ‘glue’ to help stop the hemorrhage.  Plasma is used to replenish clotting factors to stop bleeding. Previously, the hospital had to rely on platelets sent from other hospitals or most often, had to send women to hospitals outside of the Department. Many women died on-route or arriving at the other hospital, due to the lapse of time it took to transfer a patient.”

Veronica shows the freezer filled with frozen plasma.

Veronica shows the freezer filled with frozen plasma.

“Now the Totonicapán Hospital can produce all of the blood products needed. With this new equipment the hospital will be able to save many lives!

Raul Scorza