Charlotte Russo, Head Transfusion Medicine RVN
The Transfusion Medicine Service supports the clinical teams across RVC Small Animal Referrals by providing them with the blood products they need to give their patients the best possible care. It has grown rapidly in the last five years and helped a lot of animals. In 2019 we performed over 800 transfusions compared to just over 400 in 2014.
The service performs blood donations daily and each donation requires two additional people to support and hold the donor animal. We have recently appointed a dedicated Transfusion Medicine Service Assistant, which has speeded up the process of obtaining vital blood.
The service had not previously had its own dedicated assistant and relied on assistance from other teams. Therefore, the appointment of Grace Berganska (pictured) as Transfusion Medicine Service Assistant not only supports our service but takes the pressure off the other teams. The role is being fully funded by the Animal Care Trust for the first two years.
Grace previously worked as a Theatre and Diagnostic Assistant and she is very passionate about the blood donor programme. She is exceptional with the donors and is great at making them feel happy, relaxed and spoilt! When owners were not able to attend donation appointments due to COVID-19 restrictions, Grace adopted the role of being their support and comfort during the donation. She works really hard in all aspects of her job but especially when it comes to making the donors happy.
She has contributed so much to our service since she joined, not only by building great bonds with the donors but she also has updated and improved our cleaning and infection control measures, manages the ordering of food supplies for our donors, maintains the transfusion service equipment and keeps the donor room and hospital stocked with donation and transfusion supplies. She is a true asset to the transfusion service, and we're thrilled to have her – and the donors really do love her.
Other developments within the service
We are currently doing research on the necessity of fluid therapy for cats after blood donation. It is a randomised study monitoring blood pressure of cats after donation, with and without fluid therapy. We have also finished collecting data for our study into whether blood products should be leukoreduced or not – this should be published soon.
During lockdown, the Transfusion Medicine Service RVNs had time to work on writing articles on both feline and canine blood donation and how to get it right. They should be published in the near future.
I am in the process of applying for funding to run a validation study on the closed feline blood collection system that I designed a few years ago, which enabled us to start storing feline blood. If approved, I hope we will be able to start the study later this year. This will hopefully show that our collection system is safe and effective in collecting and storing feline blood.
Our feline donors have enjoyed things being a lot quieter in the hospital. With fewer people around due to social distancing – and owners being kept out of the blood donor room and area around it – things have been more peaceful for cats. This means they are much more relaxed and less distracted during their donations.
The ACT also purchased music for us that was specifically composed and researched to show that it helped to calm and relax cats. It is a little strange to the human ear but many of the cats really seem to like it.
Although a difficult year in so many ways, the support from our blood donor owners allowing their pets to donate without them being there has been incredible and the donors themselves have been amazing! This year has been made so much easier because of their happy faces and waggy tails but also by the continued and vital support we receive from the ACT.