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An art installation, created by Fife Obstetrician Dr Graham Tydeman, which aims to raise awareness of the worldwide problem of severe haemorrhage after childbirth and the importance of urgent treatment, has been unveiled at a major event in London.

Dr Graham Tydeman's ‘Blood Clock’ illustrates the scale and time dependent nature of the problem.

Every six minutes worldwide a woman dies from severe blood loss after childbirth. A new research study – the WOMAN trial – has shown that by administering an inexpensive drug called tranexamic acid, deaths due to severe bleeding can be reduced by a third when given within three hours.

The Blood Clock is constructed from brass and acrylic and at two-metres high is both imposing and intriguing.

Powered by fake blood, it operates in real time. As the clock hand moves forward six minutes, it notes the number of women who have died from severe haemorrhage.

Dr Tydeman has used a number of subtle references to childbirth, the issue of severe bleeding, and the role of tranexamic acid in the clock’s design.

These include:

  • Using a traditional Japanese fountain mechanism, sishi odoshi, to provide the energy for the movement of the clock’s hands – a nod to the development of tranexamic acid in Japan
  • Sourcing the clock mechanism from an old church clock from 1861 built in Clerkenwell – near the first UK maternity ‘lying in’ hospital
  •  Using discarded baby cots from an old maternity hospital to store the fake blood within the clock mechanism

The Blood Clock has taken over 18 months of work and the installation was formally unveiled at a special event at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, which brought together leading experts from around the world.

 Dr Tydeman commented: “Every six minutes worldwide a woman dies from severe haemorrhage after childbirth, mostly in countries with limited healthcare facilities. Time is of the essence when dealing with severe haemorrhage and therefore the idea of a clock powered by fake blood seemed to me a good way to highlight the issue.

 “The blood clock aims to be both not only beautiful but shocking and I hope that this will help to highlight the importance of early treatment and the research that has taken place. The more people hear about it the more doctors will pay attention and more lives will be saved. Perhaps it may contribute to further research in this area.”

This is not the first time that Dr Tydeman’s artistic endeavours and medical inventions have been recognised. Other work includes the development of an emergency caesarean simulator ‘Desperate Debra’, which won an innovation award at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust awards.

Dr Tydeman’s Blood Clock will remain on display at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine until early next year.