Oh my – that soldier just fainted!

A couple of years ago I had the gBriansBasicGradreat privilege of attending my sons graduation from boot camp at Fort Benning. It was quite the ceremony with a tremendous amount of pomp and circumstance. The graduates has been up for the majority of the night and then stationed down at the parade ground waiting for the ceremony to begin and so I’m guessing that while excited they were not physically at their best. We watched all of the young men line up and then stand at attention on the parade ground while the band played, demonstrations were given, and officials spoke. And during the course of all these activities, one of the graduates, front and center, fainted. A couple of sergeants rushed over to him, dragged him to the back behind all of the other graduates while everything else continued. I’m assuming that this young man quickly recovered because the units marched off the parade ground I did not see anyone lying on the ground. When I mentioned the fainting graduate to my son he said something about the soldier locking his knees.

SpencerTurner - FaintingWhenStandingAtAttentionA question of why some people faint after standing at attention for some time was posed of Dr. Spencer Turner in Oct of 1973. Fainting, also called syncope, is defined by WebMD as the sudden, brief, loss of consciousness and posture caused by decreased blood flow to the brain. While there are medical conditions that can cause fainting, what occurred with the soldier was most likely a simple episode known as a vasovagal attack or neutrally-mediated syncope. This type of fainting occurs because blood pressure drops, reducing circulation to the brain and causing loss of consciousness. Typically it occurs while standing and is often preceded by a sensation of warmth, nausea, lightheadedness and visual grayout.

Locking the knees can indeed lead to fainting as it hinders the flow of blood to the brain. The lack of circulation often leads to a light-headed feeling and can end in the individual fainting. The best way to avoidthis situation, if you have to stand for a prolonged period of time, is to bend your knees.

The original article written by Dr. Spencer Turner can be found at the Lantern Archives .

#BloodBattle 2014

Help us Beat Michigan in this year’s Blood Battle by donating blood at the RPAC on Friday, Nov. 21 2014 from 11am to 5pm in Meeting Room 2. Donors will receive a BOGO FREE Chipotle coupon, a FREE T-Shirt and a chance to WIN OSU vs. Michigan tickets!!  For more information or to schedule an appointment visit: http://tinyurl.com/pnoll62

For more information about #BloodBattle and to check the score visit: http://www.redcrossblood.org/info/centralohio/ohio-state-vs-michigan-blood-battle-1982

College Health for Black History Month – Sickle Cell

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In recognition of Black History Month, Student Health Services will be dedicating some of our February blog posts to conditions that disproportionately affect people of African descent.

One of the most well known diseases to affect primarily African Americans is sickle cell anemia, an autosomal recessive condition that occurs when a person inherits two copies of the sickle cell gene from their parents.  Unfortunately, people with sickle cell anemia are usually made painfully aware of this condition in childhood.

Sickle cell anemia occurs in roughly 1 in 500 African Americans but sickle cell trait, in which a person inherits just one copy of the sickle cell gene, occurs in about 1 in 12 African Americans! People with sickle cell trait only have painful sickle cell symptoms under extreme conditions such as:

  • At high altitues (ie. flying, mountain climbing)
  • In low oxygen environments (mountain climbing, military or sports training)
  • Dehydration (especially during sports training)

Because several college football players died during training from complications of this condition,  the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) recommends that college athletes be tested for sickle cell trait.  While it disproportionately affects people of African descent, it can also occur in people of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian, Caribbean and Central/South American descent (and even rarely Caucasians). People born after 1993 were likely screened at birth for this gene, so if you are a person of African descent born before 1993 and are considering playing college sports, please be sure to discuss testing with your health care provider!

On a somewhat positive note, students suffering from sickle cell anemia may be eligible for special college scholarships, click here for more information.

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

photo: 2med.umich.edu

What’s My Type?


Q: Do I need to know what my blood type is?

It’s funny how things run in waves around here.  I’d never been asked this question in my previous 3 years here, and then 2 people asked it on the same day.  So here goes…

Our blood type is determined by the combination of 3 different antigens that can be present on the outside of our blood cells: A, B and Rh factor.  An antigen is any substance or molecule that triggers your immune system to create an antibody against it (antibody generator).  Depending on the combination you have, your blood type will be A+, A-, B+, B-, AB+, AB-, O+ or O-.  The American Red Cross has a great website that explains what all of the combinations mean in terms of blood compatibility.

To answer the question… no, there is no real medical reason to know what your blood type is.  If you’re ever in an accident where you would need a blood transfusion, for instance, they will test your blood type right there in the emergency room.  Even if you had a copy of your test result in your pocket, they are going to re-check it because it can be done very quickly and it is just too risky to take a chance that it isn’t correct.

Same thing goes for other situations where knowing your blood type might come in handy, like seeing if you are a compatible blood or organ donor.  And blood type isn’t enough to prove or disprove paternity, so if there’s a question of baby-daddy hood going on, you’re going to need more info anyway. 

Since there’s no real medical indication to check your blood type, your insurance company probably won’t pay for it.  However, we do offer an Order-It-Yourself lab service where you can pay to have it checked without having to see a health care provider.  It’s not too expensive – swing by our lab to learn more if you’re interested.

There is another way to find out your blood type… for free!  Donate blood.  Whenever you donate blood with the Red Cross, they check your blood type.  Not only is it free, but you’ll be doing a great service to humanity AND you get free juice and cookies – that’s a pretty sweet deal.

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University