Friday, December 11, 2015

In Cold Blood - The GE Monitor Top Refrigerator

The monitor top - just look at it - scarcely bigger than a hat box - yet one of the most amazing - one of the most revolutionary triumphs of modern engineering.  (From a GE magazine ad)

We had one of these old classic refrigerators that met all the refrigeration needs of our suite of operating rooms. It was centrally located in an alcove in the middle of the hall just past the ENT room. I vividly remember the label on the front that proudly proclaimed "General Electric Refrigerating Machine."  The door made a solid click - clunk when the spring loaded latch engaged. When the compressor ran it purred like a kitten.

We kept surgical specimens in the bottom section of the monitor top. It did not have crisper doors like a modern refrigerator, just a wire shelf. The two shelves above the specimens held our lunches and the blood products for the scheduled cases. If  there was a big case in the afternoon that required blood, someone made a trip to the blood bank after lunch.

When I first started working in the operating room, it kind of creeped me out, eating my lunch after sorting through a bunch of blood bags. It seemed like something a vampire might enjoy. The older nurses did not give the comingling of blood and lunch a second thought, so I soon learned to ignore the uncomfortable feelings.

A second advantage of using a monitor top refrigerator for a blood storage unit is the availability of a blood warmer. You can say goodbye to those messy warm water baths. Just stack the blood bags on the condenser monitor top. It takes about 40 minutes to warm up to the right temperature.

One of the unique things about the combined blood storage and lunchbox refrigerator was that you never had to worry about someone stealing your lunch. I think that the time it took to sort through the blood bags to find your lunch reduced the temptation to steal. The presence of a diseased gall bladder lying on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator probably served to spoil the appetite of a would be thief.

I don't know where our old blood storage unit/lunch refrigerator is today, but I suspect it might still be in operation. They built these things to last. I doubt that with all the regulatory oversight, you could get away with using a GE monitor top refrigerator for blood storage. It's probably also frowned on to comingle a ham sandwich with banked blood.


  1. Definitely a no-no to combine a ham sandwich with banked blood!! LOLOL!

    Think of me Monday ~ OR on my R thumb first case...
    See my blog for my last 2 posts ~


  2. 40 minutes??? In our hospital if you do not hang blood within 30 minutes of being taken out of the fridge you have to return it to the lab and it is discarded!!

  3. That 30 minute rule sounds like a good idea. When I was a young nurse in a non-emergent transfusion we were told to infuse the unit of blood over a couple of hours which was thought to minimize an adverse reaction. Many years later the idea was to use a #18 angiocath and get in as quickly as possible. The old school method really did nothing to prevent an adverse reaction - it was all about careful typing and cross matching. Everything changes - usually for the better - over time.

  4. Whenever an industry changes or evolves, the time comes when we look back and revel at how "primitive" things were in the old days.