How do those around you perceive that you work with blood and plasma on a daily basis? Do you encounter any myths that you need to dispel?
Most often, their plasma will not be restored, the collection will be painful, their veins will be destroyed, or they will have to come to the collection on an empty stomach. I also hear that their blood is also taken with plasma, but that’s not really the case. The only thing that is true is that a smaller scar remains after the injection, but more so with regular donors and it’s nothing terrible. The veins will definitely not be damaged by sampling. And as for the perception of the surroundings, of course, when you mention that you work with plasma, everyone immediately asks you if you mind the sight of blood. But generally the reactions are very nice and people are interested in who their plasma would help.
How are Roma represented among donors?
There aren’t that many of them, but they come to donate regularly. In contrast to the majority of donors, where the ratio between men and women is equal, among Roma, more middle-aged women donate plasma. I also motivated my cousin to take blood regularly. I know from experience that they are afraid of needles just like anyone else, but the feeling that you are helping overcomes any fear.
Ever since you were a child, did you have the idea that you would work in healthcare?
That was more the idea of my mother, who saw me as a nurse from childhood. I always told her that the sight of blood doesn’t do me any good.
That was the reason why, after basic school, I enrolled in Diplomacy and Public Administration in Most, where I stayed for a year. After that, I boarded a train station in Chomutov, where I first went to see during the open day. The environment and the teachers impressed me so much that I knew right away that I belonged there. I enjoyed studying so much all the time that I was among the nerds. Today I see it as my mother accurately predicted what I would enjoy in the future, what I would want to do.
Today you are studying general nursing at II. medical faculty of Charles University…
It was necessary when we moved from Prague back to Chomutov, I automatically applied for a position at Chomutov oncology, but at that time they only hired general nurses and not medical assistants. So I decided to go back to school, which will open more doors for me in the future.
Do you see any major difference between studying at a medical school and at a university?
If you’re wondering if the skill thing is going to get me anywhere, then probably not. You learn everything best through practice, when you experience something and participate in the treatment of a patient. But of course you will get other important information by studying. It’s more about the competencies you acquire. For example, practical nurses and health assistants are not allowed to administer drugs into a vein. So they can only administer medication, but under the supervision of a general nurse. In hospitals, however, there is a shortage of medical staff for a long time, and this is not always the case, because it is not possible to have one general nurse with a university degree for every practical nurse. In some departments, only practical nurses work, but they are also experienced with long-term experience in the field.
Does anyone in your family work in healthcare or another helping profession?
Only the aunt works in the social field focused on children and families, but no one from the family works in the health sector. Nevertheless, I have the experience that the Roma realize themselves as paramedics, there were quite a few of them in Motola, nurses, but also doctors.
Have you encountered prejudices about your origin during your work?
I have never encountered prejudice on the part of the donors, although the surprise that they see a Roma taking plasma can sometimes be read on their faces. But my future colleague at the time was prejudiced, when she learned that a Roma woman would be joining them, she did not want to accept me in the team. But that settled down over time and today I can’t complain about my colleagues. And Roma donors are happy to see a Roma nurse during collection, because at that moment they feel more comfortable.
How do people generally feel about their health?
Most of us take health for granted until a certain age. People are sometimes unnecessary gamblers, experimenting with drugs, narcotics, high alcohol consumption or extreme sports. Regardless of the fact that Czechs are still based on misconceptions that if nothing is wrong with them, they have no signs of illness, they are practically healthy. I encounter the fact that some have not had a preventive check-up with their practitioner, gynecologist or dentist for 20 years. But it will catch up with you one day. This often concerns the Roma, who often live in social exclusion and do not pay attention to health prevention. They seek a doctor only when it is too late. This is also why in some socially excluded localities there are health prevention workers who organize various seminars, help Roma with registration with a practitioner or alleviate concerns about certain medical procedures. And unfortunately, this also happens in today’s online age, when people have access to a lot of information on how to take care of their health and detect the risk of a serious disease in time.
Photo: Archive of Kateřina Fénešová