Case Report – Blood Donor Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury

I recently settled a lawsuit arising out of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) sustained by a blood donor after he donated blood at a blood drive. The donor, “Tim,” had provided blood in the past without complication. However, on this occasion, he became woozy during the course of the blood draw attempt. He told donation-site phlebotomists, who applied a cold compress. However, he remained woozy and continued to complain to the phlebotomists.  They directed him to the canteen area where blood donors are supplied with orange juice and cookies to assist them in recovering from the donation process.

While in the canteen, Tim continued to feel faint. At one point, he collapsed to the table, spilling his orange juice. He attempted to leave. Once in the parking lot, Tim lost consciousness and fell, striking the back of his head. He awoke in his car sometime afterward with a large gash on the back of his head. Tim’s wife was concerned when Tim did not return from going to give blood. She drove to the donation site and found him in his car, bleeding and disoriented. She went into the blood donation site to ask for help. The donation site supervisor, rather than focusing on Tim’s injury, attempted to cover up the accident by having Tim’s wife sign a form indicating that Tim left the blood donation site against the advice of the on-site phlebotomists.

Our investigation revealed that the donation site personnel failed to follow their policies and procedures for dealing with donors who suffer a complication during the donation process. On-site personnel were trained to treat donors until their blood pressure recovered sufficiently to avoid faintness. Further, on-site personnel were trained to monitor the patient while they recovered. Finally, when a donor suffers an injury, the on-site personnel were required to undertake an investigation and document their findings.

In this case, it was apparent that the on-site personnel had failed in all of their duties. They failed to monitor Tim’s blood pressure after he became faint. Further, they completely failed to monitor him while he was in the canteen, and, later, when he left. In fact, no one even saw Tim faint in the canteen and no one observed him leaving the donation site. Finally, in addition to attempting to cover up the accident by having Tim’s wife sign a waiver form, the phlebotomist who actually drew blood from Tim documented that Tim suffered no complication during the procedure.

Tim sustained a concussion as a result of the fall. Most concussions recover after several weeks. However, a subset of patients will experience permanent consequences from their concussion. This is called post-concussion syndrome or traumatic brain injury. In Tim’s case, the brain injury was accompanied by damage to his pituitary gland, which sits in the cranial space by the brain. This resulted in hormonal imbalances, along with all of the typical symptoms of a traumatic brain injury including dizziness, headaches, loss of concentration, memory loss, and irritability.

Tim sued the blood donation center for negligence and serious personal injury.  This case settled for a confidential amount.