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What’s it like to Donate Plasma

Maybe you’ve been considering donating blood plasma for a while now, but aren’t quite sure what it’s all about. Or, maybe you have a dread of needles, and are afraid it will hurt too much. If this sounds like you, this article should help ease your anxieties.

Be aware that donating plasma is different from donating whole blood. For one thing, it takes longer. For another, because most of your blood, minus the plasma part of it, is returned to your body, you can donate much more often than with blood donations.

One thing you need to remember to do, anytime you go to donate blood plasma, is to eat a good meal before, and to keep yourself well hydrated. This is important, to avoid any bad reactions.

The First Day

Now, what happens the first time you go to donate? Well, you’ll need to sign in at the front desk, and indicate that you are a new donor and not a repeat visitor. Make sure to pick a day when you have plenty of time to spare, because that first visit will take quite a bit longer than other visits thereafter- as much as three hours. This is because before you can donate, you will be given a physical to ensure that you are healthy enough for the procedure. This will be performed there at the center, not some off-site doctor’s clinic. It is not really a complete physical, just the basics like your vitals, a blood and urine test, reflexes, etc.

The physical, if you pass it, won’t need to be repeated for a year. However, every time you come in to donate you will still need to be screened and passed before you’re allowed to donate. The screening process is quick- they will take down your weight, your temperature, and pulse. Then, passing those, they take a blood sample and test it for iron content, as well as looking for anything out of whack with your blood that would make it unsafe. All of this takes only a few minutes.

You will also, every time you visit, need to read through a list of activities that could put you at high risk for AIDS, and you will be asked if you have ever participated in any of these high-risk activities. You may also have to sign a statement indicating that you have not participated in these activities.

If you pass all of the above, you will be good to go.

Now Comes The Fun Part

Once you pass your physical and screening, usually you won’t have to wait too long before your name is called to go back and donate. They will take you into the back room where you will see several cots where others are already donating. These cots are actually quite comfortable, in spite of how they look. This is a good thing, since you’ll be spending anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour lying on one.

You’ll probably be asked which arm you want to use. If it’s your first time, it probably won’t matter unless some previous medical experience gives you a preference. The staff will tell you which cot to use, and if you brought anything with you, such as a jacket, purse, or backpack, you can put it in a cubby hole on one end of the cot, then go ahead and lie down.

But, But, Will It Hurt?

If done correctly, the needle in your arm should not hurt much. This is because the place where it goes in, for most people, is not a very sensitive area. You will feel it when it first goes in, but it is not really painful. Then after a few seconds, you shouldn’t even feel it at all anymore. You will be asked to squeeze or pump your fist throughout the procedure, to keep the blood flowing. The only time you stop pumping is during the return cycle. They will inform you when this occurs so you will know what’s going on.

Usually there will be a movie playing that you can get engrossed in, or you can bring a book or magazine to read. I do advise you to bring something, because otherwise if you don’t happen to like the movie (or if there isn’t one), it can be a pretty boring 45 minutes.

If you do notice that the needle in your arm is hurting quite a lot, you might want to tell someone. It may not be in just right, and can be adjusted. Or you may have the problem that I do in one arm- the vein might not be in the exact place where most people have it. If this is the case for you, the next time you come back (and you really should try at least once more before giving up) use the other arm and see if that isn’t better. That’s what I found I had to do, use one arm only, and never the “painful” arm. Again, under normal circumstances it shouldn’t hurt. In fact, the finger stick during the screening process usually hurts a whole lot more than the actual donation.

When It’s Over…

Once you’ve completed the donation process, you will be unhooked from the machine and your arm will be wrapped. Do not remove this wrapping, in spite of how ugly you think it looks, for at least an hour. If you do, you’ll be surprised at how much you can bleed from a tiny hole in your arm!

You will then go to collect your money, and you are free to leave. You may be asked on your first time to wait around a while to be sure there are no bad effects, such as dizziness or fainting. You really should take it easy, because your body isn’t yet used to this. Don’t engage in a lot of physical activity after donating. Once you become a repeat visitor, your body should build up a tolerance and you will be able to do more thereafter.

That’s really all there is to it. Unlike donating whole blood, you can give plasma twice a week if you wish. This is really a good way to earn some extra cash, as well as saving someone’s life.