ASBP: From a Toothache to a Transfusion
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From a Toothache to a Transfusion

By Jeffery Diffy, ASBP blood donor recruiter, North Chicago, Ill.
In January of 2012, Navy mom Elizabeth Carroll went to bed after applying an over-the-counter topical tooth pain-relief gel on a sore wisdom tooth and woke up to a chain of events that nearly claimed her life. Today, Carroll is relieved for the unexpected episode after looking back on it. The life-threatening reaction Carroll experienced from applying the gel alerted physicians to a previously undetected and separate threat: internal bleeding caused by a stomach tumor. The medical intervention that Carroll required that day, including the blood she received as part of that care, spared Carroll’s life and restored her to health.

The trouble began for Carroll after she’d applied the gel to her wisdom tooth and woke up to lock jaw the following day. Doctors prescribed a course of steroids as a resolution, but shortly thereafter, Carroll was rushed to the emergency room when her face, neck and tongue began to swell and constrict her breathing. She was then rushed to surgery to have fluid drained from the swelling. Carroll said, “The doctors couldn’t figure out why I had the reaction that I did to the [product] being that I was an otherwise healthy woman. After some routine blood tests, it was found that I had a very low blood count, low iron and low blood platelets.”

Carroll explained that the tooth gel label warns of a rare, but life-threatening condition called methemoglobinemia, which causes the amount of oxygen in your blood to become dangerously low. Since having a low blood count increases the chances of such a reaction, the doctors suspected that Carroll was bleeding internally somewhere.

“During this time the doctors had put me in a medically induced coma so that it was easier for me to breathe on the machines and I wouldn’t try to fight with the breathing tubes. After a few scans and ultrasounds, it was finally found that I had a tumor that had punctured my uterus and I was bleeding internally from that.”

Carroll’s daughter, Seaman Brieane Matteson said, “That morning was like any other. I woke up, I got ready and kissed my momma goodbye. Next thing I knew, I was being picked up from school and being rushed to the hospital. When we arrived at the hospital, my mom couldn’t talk at all. The doctors then came out and took her to surgery. The next six hours were the wait of a lifetime.”

Currently, Matteson is attending training to become a machinist mate at her ‘A’ school in Great Lakes, Ill. She donated blood while attending her basic training as a recruit and says she plans to continue donating blood to help as many as she can.

“Although my mom was in a medically induced coma, she did come out okay. They replaced much of her blood volume during her admission," said Matteson “I’m so thankful for people that donate so they can save lives like my mom was saved.”

Carroll stated that without donated blood, she may not be alive today. “The doctors had informed me that they had to give me a total of three blood transfusions to [increase] my blood count and that I essentially had no blood in my body before the transfusions. I was given the gift of life because of someone’s selfless act of donating their own blood. I always will encourage the donation of blood to anyone who is willing to do so because it will and does save lives. Save a life and give a little piece of your own.”

About the Armed Services Blood Program
Since 1962, the Armed Services Blood Program has served as the sole provider of blood for the United States military. As a tri-service organization, the ASBP collects, processes, stores and distributes blood and blood products to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and their families worldwide. As one of four national blood collection organizations trusted to ensure the nation has a safe, potent blood supply, the ASBP works closely with our civilian counterparts by sharing donors on military installations where there are no military blood collection centers and by sharing blood products in times of need to maximize availability of this national treasure. To find out more about the ASBP or to schedule an appointment to donate, please visit To interact directly with ASBP staff members, see more photos or get the latest news, follow @militaryblood on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest. Find the drop. Donate.

The Armed Services Blood Program is a proud recipient of the Army Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Public Affairs award for journalism.