Exchange Transfusion

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I came home late last night after witnessing and participating in a pretty uncommon treatment procedure for neonates – exchange transfusion. 

This unfortunate baby boy started to develop jaundice at 10 hours of life (that’s not normal) and his bilirubin levels started skyrocketing to levels where it shouldn’t be. The more bilirubin found in your body, the more jaundiced (yellow) you are, the more dangerous it becomes as bilirubin can eventually seep into your brain and cause a huge mess there.

Such is the case for this little baby boy. It’s probably caused by some abnormal interaction between his blood and his mother’s blood either when he was still in the womb or during the process of delivery.

His levels were so high that the safer phototherapy would not be able to break down the bilirubin in his body. He needed an urgent removal of all the accumulated bilirubin… thus the exchange transfusion.

Basically what’s being done is we try to exchange as much of the baby’s own blood with normal blood from a donor. A small volume is taken out from the baby and an equal small volume of donor’s blood is injected back into the baby. It’s a long tedious process requiring intensive monitoring and it usually takes up to a few hours. The amount exchanged is about twice the baby’s total blood volume – and that means we took out all of the baby’s blood twice and exchanged it.

I drove home thinking about the procedure and realized that all of us actually need exchange transfusion… of a different kind, of course. We are all born with sinful bad blood running through our system that would eventually lead to death – real eternal death. In order to be saved, we need blood that is safe and free from all that bad stuff that’s killing us. Blood from one who is different from us yet like us for exchange. It cost the Son of God, Jesus, His life so that He could ‘exchange’ our bad blood for His that is pure and clean. He died our death so that we can have life that should’ve been His. That’s not the end of it because Jesus rose from the dead and was victorious over it all.

As I sat by the baby’s side, helping to inject in 10-15mls of new blood every 3-4 minutes, it really reminded me of the ultimate cost Jesus gave by dying on the cross to exchange with me His blood so that I may have eternal life to spend with Him in heaven.

13The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,[a] so that we may serve the living God!

15For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

Hebrews 9:13-15

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