I have had many people ask me..."Why do you donate Plasma"? I try to explain that it helps others and gives me a little spending cash in the process. But there is so much that goes into the process. So much more than meets the eye.
In this post, I will explain what Plasma is, who it helps, the process, why I feel it's important and the side effects one might encounter during the donation process.
First things first. What exactly is Plasma?
Plasma takes up around 55% of the blood. It's the clear, slightly yellow liquid portion of the blood. It contains water, salts, enzymes, antibodies and other proteins.
Who do the Plasma donations help?
Plasma-based medicines help treat rare genetic and chronic diseases such as hemophilia and immune deficiency disorders. They are also used for trauma and burn victims, cancer treatments, organ transplants and so much more!
What is Plasma used for?
Plasma can be used for many different life-saving reasons. For example:
Albumin- Albumin is used for burn victims, trauma and surgery patients.
Clotting Factor- Some people have problems with their blood clotting. This can result in organ damage, internal bleeding, and even death.
Hyperimmuneglobules- If you have ever had a tetanus shot, rabies shots, or dialysis, then you've received some part of Plasma. They are also widely used for RH incompatibility. If you have had a child and your blood is RH negative, they give you a shot so your body doesn't resist the pregnancy if the child is not RH negative as well.
Alpha 1 Antitrypsin- A hereditary condition that can affect the lungs and/or liver in children and adults. It's a genetic emphysema.
Why do I feel it's important to donate?
Most importantly, I'm helping to save lives!
My youngest son was a burn victim. When he was around 2 years old, he pulled a pot of boiling water on himself and had burns from his chin all the way down the front of his body.
I was absolutely terrified.
He went through many painful treatments to ensure the old dead skin was removed so the new healthy skin could grow. After each "scrub" the doctor would put a body wrap gauze with a special cream that helped with the healing process. (Albumin) This medicine not only helped to soothe my son's burns but it healed with no scarring.
If someone hadn't donated Plasma, my son never would have been able to properly heal from his burns.
The next reason I donate is simply, I get a little extra spending money in my pocket.
Most Plasma centers pay you to donate. The center I visit has different pay schedules depending on weight and if you are a new donor. On average, I make around $300-400 a month. I am able to donate twice a week and make between $70-75 per week. Most plasma centers also offer bonuses for multiple donations during the month. The bonus schedule for the plasma center I visit is as follows:
6th donation of the month = $25
7th donation of the month = $20
8th donation of the month = $15
This is on top of your normal pay scale!
New donors usually make a bit more for their first 5 donations. This all depends on where you go and what their pay scale is. On average one can make around $250 for their first 5 donations. then the bonuses for the 6th, 7th and 8th. so in total your first month you can make $410. Not bad for an hour a visit.
I have used the donation money to visit my two older children and my grandchildren in Kentucky and have started paying off some accumulated debt.
What is the process to donate?
Well, you definitely have to be in good health.
I have heard many people say " I thought only drug addicts donate" or "you have to be pretty desperate to donate your bodily fluids"
Well, I can assure you I am NOT a drug addict nor am I desperate.
On your first visit, you have a full physical done to ensure that you are healthy enough to donate. You will need to bring a current valid ID and proof of residency. ( current electric bill etc.) You will be asked important medical questions and a sample of your blood will be taken to test for any communicable diseases. You must be between the ages of 18 and 64 and have healthy veins in your arms. You have to weigh at least 110 pounds and not have had any piercings, tattoos, or permanent makeup in the last 12 months.
Your first visit can take up to 2 hours depending on how busy the Plasma Center is. However, it has taken a bit longer when the center is extremely busy. After your first initial visit, it's normally around an hour. Make sure to eat properly and keep yourself hydrated.
Check-in is simple. There are KIOSK computers that you sign in on that ask you a bunch of questions, the staff checks your weight, iron, protein levels, blood pressure and temperature. If you are too low then you may get deferred until you can get your levels to the proper numbers.
Once you have completed the intake process, you are taken back and placed at a donor station, where the machines to separate the blood and plasma are located. This is a completely sterile environment and no food or drinks are allowed on the donor floor. If you are afraid of needles, donating may not be an option for you. The needle gauge is a 17, which is fairly large.
Once hooked up to the machine, all you have to do is sit back and relax for the next 40 minutes. Bring a book, watch the available T.V or play a game on your phone!
What are the side effects to donating:
So I'm sure you are all wondering what the side effects may be when donating. This all depends on your body and how well you hydrate yourself.
Donating can cause dehydration. That is why it's so important to drink plenty of water. Most donation centers offer Gatorade, and also have a saline drip to help rehydrate the body after donation.
Dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting. I have myself experienced all of the above. In fact my first donation, I passed out completely. On other occasions, I have also felt light headed and once got sick. Don't worry though, I am obviously fine! The staff is amazing at the place I go to. They are very alert and know exactly what to look for and how to treat you when this occurs. Make sure to let them know at the first sign so they can properly take care of you. I personally have to have the staff run my machine at a lower speed because my body can't handle the full speed of withdrawal. Normal speed is 125....I run mine on 80. The staff at the center I visit always joke that they are going to put my machine on 20. It takes a bit longer on a lower setting but much safer for me and the staff doesn't have to take their attention on the other people who are also there to donate.
Fatigue. Because they are taking nutrients from your body, it is not uncommon for you to feel a little tired after donating. This is normal and another reason why it's so important to eat right and stay hydrated.
Discomfort or burning. When anything punctures the skin, there is a chance for infection. Make sure to follow all directions given by the staff to ensure proper care of the puncture site.
Citrate reaction. During the donation, an anticoagulant is used to ensure that the blood doesn't clot during the donation process. Most of the anticoagulant is retained in the machine but some also enters into the bloodstream. Some people have had a reaction to the anticoagulant. The side effects are numbness or tingling in the fingers, toes, and lips, metallic taste, shivering and chills, muscle twitching, rapid or slow pulse and shortness of breath. More severe side effects can include spasms, vomiting, shock, irregular pulse and cardiac arrest.
Atrial puncture. Although this is rare, it can occur at any time. This can happen if the vein is missed while inserting the needle and instead hits the artery. If this is done, the technician will remove the needle and apply pressure to the area for at least 10 minutes.
Donating plasma isn't for everyone but if you have ever considered donating plasma I would definitely urge you to go. It's safe, sterile, helps save lives and puts a little extra spending cash in your pocket.
If you have ever donated before.....Thank you! If you are curious about donating but are afraid of the experience, let me assure you, it isn't as bad as you may think.
I would love to hear about your experiences and why you choose to donate in the comment section!