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My wife would have died without a blood transfusion

Robert Gilby says he and his wife Emma are forever indebted to blood donors, after a traumatic experience following the birth of their first child.


Those really could have been the last words I heard my wife say before her hand separated from mine. Her face drained of all colour in an instant, with an expression of absolute fear in her eyes as the trauma team wheeled her away from me.

Emma had just delivered our first child. I saw the blood immediately after Charlie arrived into the world, but for all I knew that was normal. The doctors knew differently.

Before I knew what was happening, Emma had left the room and I was alone with my newborn son in my arms. I was oblivious to what Emma was going through alone while fully conscious, only 20 metres down the corridor.

As I sat in the delivery room cradling Charlie, I looked out at the corridor where I’d see the medical staff rushing back and forward, some with blood on their scrubs. I had no idea whose blood that was.

A midwife occasionally came to visit me, not with any update on what was happening with Emma, but to assist me changing the first nappy, giving the first bottle, the first winding; all the things that I had hoped Emma would be there to do or least share with me. She had earned that right.

As time wore on, hours now, I started to grow concerned to the point of agitated. I’d ask for Emma and be told she was fine.

Shutterstock / beerkoff Shutterstock / beerkoff / beerkoff

Like a horror movie

Then the surgeon came in and explained her injuries to me, but I didn’t understand, I just wanted to see her. Eventually, I was told I could go into the operating theatre.

“Jesus, it’s like a horror movie in there,” two theatre nurses said to each other as I passed through the entrance, not noticing me as I walked past with Charlie in my arms.

I’ll never forget the scene. Emma was on the table, delirious. There was blood all over the place; so much so that reams of paper towels were put down to act as a barrier to stop the spread.

Emma had effectively lost 80% of her body’s blood in a matter of minutes after the delivery. Were it not for the supply of donated blood, and the skill of the surgical team, my lasting memory of Emma would have been of her on that trolley, alone, scared. She would have barely felt the touch of the baby she carried all those months.

Give blood

Emma and I are forever indebted to those blood donors and Emma now gives her time willingly as an advocate for blood donation.

It’s because of blood donation that Emma survived her injuries and went on to have our second child, Victoria Rose.

Those donors who gave their blood not only saved a life, they helped create one too. That selflessness must never be understated.

It doesn’t sit easy with me opening up so publicly, but if it generates just one extra pint of blood in the system, I will consider it a job well done.

The author of this piece, Robert Gilbey, is a data centre engineer and father of two who lives in Drogheda.

A spokesperson for the Irish Blood Transfusion Service sent us the following, in response to Robert and Emma’s story: 

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) is looking for 8,000 new donors between now and Christmas. The average age of a blood donor is increasing and the number of new donors coming forward has been in decline for a number of years.

The blood supply today is between four and five days across all blood groups. The IBTS aims to hold seven days supply. Blood lasts just 35 days and just 3% of the eligible population give blood.

For those who have never given blood before, the IBTS urges you to come to a clinic and become a donor. For those who used to give blood but have fallen out of the habit, the IBTS would be delighted to see you back at a blood donation clinic near you soon.

For more information about donating blood, or to find out about clinics in your area, click here

Read: ‘They openly debated what sort of sex I had’: What it was like being at the centre of the blood-ban case

Read:Blood supply for hospitals dangerously low ahead of St Patrick’s Day

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