Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Blood bank

So now I'm in the blood bank, AKA Transfusion Science. Between this, my two part-time jobs, studying for the CSMLS exam in February and doing revisions on During the Fire, I've been too busy for anything else.

But as well as my blog being overdue for an update, I like to describe the behind-the-scenes work in the hospital. So... blood bank.

When a patient needs a transfusion, a sample of their blood is sent to us for a type and screen. Most people know their ABO and Rh type (e.g. A negative, O positive), but pregnancy and previous transfusions can complicate matters. Being exposed to foreign antigens - and yes, a baby's can be treated as foreign by the mother's body - makes a patient's immune system react by producing antibodies, and this can lead to a bad reaction if they're given blood that hasn't undergone further screening. That's another thing the blood bank checks.

Then the blood can be further treated (e.g. irradiated to kill donor white blood cells which might otherwise attack the recipient) before being labeled and allocated via the computer system. It took me a good few days to become at all familiar with the computer system where everything that happens to a unit of blood has to be documented. I've never worked anywhere where accountability and cross-checking were more important.

Which is understandable. Issue the wrong unit and a patient could die. That's another thing the blood bank does - investigation of transfusion reactions, when a patient has a bad response to the blood they've received.

The Transfusion department also handles blood products (platelets and plasma) and recombinant products like clotting factors for people with hemophilia. It's a fascinating place to work, and the staff are friendly. The teaching tech assigned to us, though, is a bit of a prankster. One day I was in the walk-in freezer, getting some immunoglobulin to be issued to patients. The light switch is outside the freezer, so he crept up and turned it off.

I was so startled I swore. Naturally, he thought that was hilarious. Thankfully I didn't drop the bottles of immunoglobulin, which would have been somewhat less hilarious.

Off to work now.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Full Monty

It’s easy to imagine the high-concept for this film: “Six unemployed steelworkers become strippers”. But that short-changes The Full Monty, because it’s much more than a bawdy comedy. There are a lot of films I enjoy, but only one so far where I’ve shelled out for the DVD, and this is it.

The films begins after Sheffield’s steel industries have collapsed, and months of unemployment have left most of the former steelworkers depressed and cynical. Gaz can’t afford child support, despite his various schemes for earning a quid here and there, while his best friend Dave is physically as well as financially impotent. Dave’s wife, now the family’s breadwinner, feels he’s given up on her as well as on himself, so she goes out for the night to watch the Chippendales perform.

But that gives Gaz an idea. “Them buggers can, we can,” he says, and proceeds to round up a reluctant handful of his fellow unemployed.

Gaz is the linchpin of the film, a wonderfully drawn and acted character. In private he’s unsure of himself; with the rest of the gang, he’s driven, confident and energetic. He’s engaged in a constant juggling act as he tries to keep everyone more or less doing as he wants – all so he can continue to see his son.

The other characters are great too, though. Gerald, their ex-foreman, still hasn’t told his wife that he’s been unemployed for six months, so every day he dresses in a suit, takes his lunchbox and heads out to the Job Centre. Lomper is pale, skinny and suicidal – the scene where Dave fixes Lomper’s car’s engine and smoke immediately begins to fill the car’s interior is hilarious. Guy can’t sing or dance, but with his physical attribute, he may not need to. And Horse can dance, but needs a hip replacement. “Me breakdancing days are probably over, but there’s always the funky chicken,” he says.

As if six of the unsexiest wasn’t a recipe for success, Gaz is then put on the spot by a woman who asks why anyone would pay to see them instead of the Chippendales. “This lot go all the way,” he claims, giving the film its title and nearly scaring all the others into hanging up the G-strings for good.

But as they exercise and rehearse together, deal with their various problems – which eventually involve the police – and work up the nerve to take it all off, they slowly start to regain the friendship, confidence and masculinity they lost along with their jobs. For a comedy, this film touches on some surprisingly deep issues. It made me care, it made me laugh and it made me buy the DVD. Recommendations don’t get much better than that.