I've donated blood in the past on an ad hoc basis, but this year I made it a regular "book in advance and put it in your diary every 3 months" occurrence. I have O- blood which is much sought after so I figure I might as well share it around.
On Tuesday I headed in for my appointment to discover that because I only returned from Hawaii three weeks ago I hadn't made the four week cut off regarding overseas travel. Hawaii is apparently a West Nile Virus location so I need to ensure I've gone four weeks without symptoms before I can share my red blood cells. Bummer.
The lovely Red Cross lady chatted to me about donating plasma instead. Apparently plasma is the most versatile component of our blood. Our blood is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets which are all suspended in a fluid called plasma. This plasma contains important proteins, nutrients and clotting factors which help to prevent or stop bleeding. We have around five litres of blood in our bodies of which 3 litres is this yellow plasma stuff.
The process of donation isn't all that different from donating blood and takes around 45 minutes. The only real difference is that when the blood comes out, instead of going into a plastic bag thingo to be taken off for storage, it goes into a machine, gets whizzed about a bit and separated, and the plasma shoots through to the plastic bag thingo with my red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets being returned to me! Yep. It goes out of my arm, into a chamber, separated and then it's returned through the same tube it just came out of. Magic!
By donating plasma we can help protect patients against some infectious diseases, help those with immune deficiency disorders, help restore blood volume in shock or burn victims, assist in the treatment of kidney disease, and prevent bleeding in people with Willebrand disorder or haemophilia.
To become a plasma donor you have to have at least one whole blood donation already registered within the last 2 years just so they know you can donate without complications. Being able to donate will also depend on your haemoglobin levels and you have to be between 20-65 years of age and have a bit of meat on your bones (over 50 kgs).
As with anything there could be side effects. A small amount of anticoagulant is mixed with each withdrawal of blood to prevent clotting in the tube and some of this is returned to the donor with the blood. I managed to get all the way through my donation to the last few return drops when I started to get really light headed and got a metallic taste in my mouth. The nurse quickly tipped my comfy bed/chair backwards to get the blood back into my head so I didn't passed out. It's possible I didn't have enough calcium in my system which is apparently important in the lead up to this procedure. Best to have eaten yoghurt, cheese or drink milk before you head in. The other thing that tends to happen is you get really cold. Your blood is taken out of you at body temperature, but returned to you at room temperature which is somewhat cooler. So you get a bit cold during the return process. They do look after you though! I was given lovely heated blankets and a heat pack. Oh, and I was also given a milkshake during the process to try and combat that need for calcium thing (which clearly wasn't enough for me). And at the end, my donation place gives you a feed of pies, crackers, cheese, Mars bars, cookies or cake. You know, all the good stuff.
So that's it! That's how you donate plasma. It's a great way to "give back" without having to always open your wallet. And for many people, it's worth so much more than a big screen TV.
For further information on how to donate blood, plasma or platelets, you can call 131495 or visit www.donateblood.com.au. You can also like them on Facebook.
You can also like me on Facebook too for that matter. Just saying ...