With my slightly misshapen heart it’s not a good idea for me to reduce my red blood cell count by donating blood.
Fortunately, I can still donate a different way.
There are three different parts of your blood that are separated out after you donate, red blood cells that carry oxygen, platelets that clot injuries, and plasma which is the actual liquid part of your blood.
Good news for me, most anyone can donate each of these blood components individually!
Red blood cell donations are out for me. That’s why I’m staying away from whole blood donations in the first place.
I have enough platelets for myself but when the clinic tested my levels they said I don’t have enough to donate to other people.
That leaves plasma.
When I went to the clinic for a plasma donation all the preliminaries were the same, heart rate, blood pressure, hemoglobin levels, and check the arms for signs of intravenous drug use. One additional test was checking my body weight to see how much plasma they wanted to draw out.
I laid down at the donation cradles like I would for a whole blood donation, but instead of getting hooked up to a little bag I got hooked up to a dishwasher sized machine.
The machine draws blood out of a donor, separates out whatever blood component they are donating, and then puts the rest of their blood back in.
The separation is done using a centrifuge contained in the body of the machine. The centrifuge spins really fast once the donor’s blood is inside of it. The denser blood components, red blood cells and platelets, go to the outside of the centrifuge while the plasma stays on the inside. The machine puts the plasma into collection bags and returns the leftover parts to the donor.
Each “spin” takes one minute and collects about 20ml of plasma. I was set to donate 800ml so the actual donation took about 40 minutes compared to about 8 minutes for a whole blood donation.
I read my book for a little bit while donating but then the little lap DVD players they had enticed me.
They had a huge selection of DVDs (~400). I requested Iron Man 2 and watched the first couple minutes of it as my donation finished.
The wind-down process of a plasma donation was exactly the same as a whole blood donation. Held my arm over my head for a minute, got bandaged up, ate some snacks, drank some water, and left. I also made an appointment for donating again in a month. Gotta finish that Iron Man movie even if it takes 4 more donations!
The aftereffects of the donation were my biggest concern. I didn’t want to get heart palpitations for weeks afterwards because of reduced red blood cell counts.
Fortunately, donating just the plasma of my blood worked out fine. I had some flutteries and felt light-headed for 24 hours afterwards, but that was all. No persistent effects, so no worries! I plan to continue donating plasma.
And of course I am obligated to encourage you to donate as well. It’s free! It’s easy! It comes with hundreds of free movies and cookies! What more could you ask for?