One thing I really like doing is donating plasma. So, this blog is about what I like and dislike about donating plasma and my experiences at Biolife plasma center in Coralville.

My mother and pretty much all of my friends agree that I shouldn’t donate plasma, and as of Monday, they got their wish. I’ll talk more about this second, but feel it’s worth mentioning before the pro/con list.

Reasons to donate plasma:

  1. It is an easy way to be a public servant
  2. You are giving away excess cells without taking away from what you need to be healthy
  3. Plasma is used to create medicals aids for pregnant women and people with hemophilia
  4. You get paid, and since you didn’t do any extra work for the money, you don’t have to feel guilty using it to splurge
  5. You get a medical checkup every time you go in, blood tests every 3 months, and a physical every 6 months for free
Reasons to not donate plasma:
  1. Can cause severe bruising
  2. may be painful or cause nerve damage if needle is put in wrong
  3. You have an increased risk of accidentally coming in contact with someone else’s blood
  4. time consuming (for most people visits are about an hour)
  5. you develop eyesore tract marks
Like I said, I really like donating plasma. I know that it is a business, and it’s actually a pretty lucrative business for the plasma company, but I get a personal sense of helping people every time I donate. I try to donate as often as possible, but for an unknown reason, I have many more problems with donating than anyone else I know. My roommates are always excited to hear what trouble I caused at the plasma center. I’ve bled on the staff, squirted blood at other patients, severely bruised, and failed to bleed on several occasions. Several friends have asked me why I continue to go, because no one else has anywhere near the kind of problems I have, but I continue to go because it really does make me feel good about myself (and getting paid for it is certainly another big incentive).
I was having a lot of trouble donating in February, to the point where they unhooked me before finishing twice in two weeks, once with a little blood in the reserve tank. If that happens twice withing 2 months, you get kicked out for two months because they consider it to be equivalent to donating blood. Because of this, and a bruise that took up most of my biceps and my forearm, I decided to take the whole month of March off.
When I resumed going in April, the problems had decreased. Where it usually takes me an hour and a half, my first 4 donations were all under an hour (the normal time it takes for people to do plasma). It usually takes both arms to finish the donation, but 2 of those 4 times only took 1 arm. So I felt pretty confident that my body had repaired itself, but I had trouble when I went in on Monday.
I went in expecting a pretty good donation. I was well hydrated, I had a good meal before, and it felt like I was warm enough that my veins were pretty close to the surface. When they stuck my arm, it felt fine, but for an unknown reason it was going slow — well, it was actually going the speed I was used to. A person who has never worked with me before decided it was going to slow and kept messing with it to try to make it go faster. In the end, she adjusted it so much in such a short period of time that the skin around the incision became tender and they had to switch to my other arm.
On the other arm, it still wasn’t going fast (well, duh), and they decided to keep playing with it and very quickly made that arm tender too. At this point, I’ve only been sitting down for 7 minutes (my crossword online was timing it), and I only completed 1 cycle. This meant I was under 100 ml of plasma donated — 80 to be precise. If you are under 100 ml before they have to disconnect you, it counts against you. If it happens 3 times in 3 months, they defer you for 1 month to give your body some time to recover. I had this happen once in February, so they insisted that rather than take a second one and give myself a week to recover, they wanted me to get that other 20 ml before disconnecting me.
They adjusted it so much at this point that my skin began to puff up (a sign that it’s going to bruise). So one of the center supervisors came over and made that call that I needed to be disconnected immediately. Because they made me keep trying after that first cycle, I had 50 ml of red blood cells in the reserve. I wanted them to do a third prick into a different vein in my arm (they’ve done it to me once before), but for an unknown reason they wouldn’t do it. It’s been 7.5 weeks since the last time there was a small amount of blood left at the end of the procedure, so since it was less than 8 weeks they deferred me for 8 weeks (Until June 20th). This means that 50ml of blood is being considered equal to the 437 ml of blood you lose when donating whole blood.
I’m really frustrated about the whole situation, because at every step along the way, their decisions wound up screwing me over in the end. They could have left the needle alone in the first arm, nothing was wrong. When they saw that I wasn’t going to be able to finish in the second arm, they could have disconnected me after the return cycle finished, leaving no blood in the reserve. When they made the call to cut me off at the end, they could have tried making an additional incision to return the blood cells, there was no reason not too. In the end, both of my arms feel fine 2 days later, neither arm bruised, and I’m confident that a week or two from now I wouldn’t have anything more serious than a bruise if I did donate. Unfortunately, those extra 3 days I still had for it to be 8 weeks and a measly 50 ml of blood (the reserve holds about half a pint, 237 ml of red cells for reference) means that I cannot continue donating for at least 8 weeks that started on Monday.
I’m a really rare case, it seems. I watch other people at the plasma center, and as often as I go in there, I never see anyone else have problems donating. Many of my friends donate twice a week, and they never have difficulties donating either. One friend was upset because he developed a small bruise once, and that’s the only time any of my friends have mentioned having problems at the plasma center. All this is to say that because I cannot donate plasma for the next 8 weeks, I would really like my readers to do so if they can. So… yeah… donate plasma.