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My First Plasma Donation


I decided to donate plasma for the first time last weekend. I’d love to say that it was only because of all the life-saving things that can be done with plasma, like people that have suffered burns, shock, trauma, bleeding disorders, immune deficiencies…but I have to admit it was the fact that plasma donation centers will pay me for my amazing plasma. Payment depends on how much plasma you’re able to donate and that is going to depend on your health and weight. Plus, with plasma you can donate twice a week. And many centers offer various incentives and rewards throughout the year so the amount you get paid could be even higher. Plasma centers give you a pre-paid Visa card that you keep and they will add money to it whenever you donate. You get charged a fee for anything after the first purchase (how much depends on whether you use it as credit or debit) so most people will buy something really cheap and get the rest as cash back (will require you set it up a PIN number).

As a first time donor you will have to go through a health screening, watch a video, and answer a bunch of health questions. It process takes about 3-4 hours total between the screening and actual donation itself. Once you actually get back to the donation floor, you’ll be ushered to a bed and hooked up to the plasmapheresis machine.

The process goes in stages. Your blood is taken into the machine (you have to pump your hand to get maximum flow) and your plasma is separated from your red blood cells. After a little bit, you’ll feel the cuff on your upper arm deflate. This means the machine is pumping the red blood cells back into your body. Once you feel the cuff tighten, this means your blood is being taken back into the machine again. You can watch your plasma as it’s collected into the plastic container. After several cycles (maybe between 5 and 7), you’ll feel the strangest sensation of icy cold as saline is pumped into your vein to replenish some of your fluids and electrolytes.

Here’s some things I recommend for first time donors:

~~Make sure to bring your license AND social security card when you go in for the first time. My center required both of these forms of ID.

~~Eat a really good breakfast and bring a protein bar with you to eat while you’re waiting to get through the health screening. It’s important to avoid fatty or fried foods and focus on eating something that’s packed with protein and complex carbs. I ate steel cuts oats, an egg white veggie omelette, and a banana. The problem with first time donors is that it takes so long to actually get back to the floor to donate that even the best of breakfasts can wear off. I felt fine after my first donation, drove home, activated my card, and decided to head to the store to get a few things. I made it through the store just fine but by the time I made it to the checkout line, my blood pressure had plummeted and I almost fainted. I ended up having to have someone come get me. But once I got home and ate and drank a bunch of water, I was fine. My advice would be to eat a big breakfast and bring a protein bar with you. And go straight home to eat and rehydrate until you see how you’ll respond. My second time donating only took about an hour and fifteen minutes so I felt fine. I made sure to eat a big snack when I got home and drink lots of water. Never felt faint at all.

~~Bring something to read while your’re waiting, especially for your first time. Most of the time spent doing the health screening is waiting for the nurses to see you for the next stage. And you’ll be waiting an hour or more during the donation process. You’re allowed to use their free wifi so you can bring a phone or iPad as well. There are no phone calls or pictures allowed while you’re donating to protect privacy.

~~Bring a blanket or at least a heavy coat. The donating room is cold plus when they push the saline, you’ll be shivering in a few minutes and will be cold for a little while afterwards.

I’m definitely going to be a regular donator. The money is nice plus that amber liquid the techs pull from my body can save someone’s life. If you’ve never thought of donating, you definitely should.

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4 Comments on “My First Plasma Donation”

  1. Robin DeMarco November 27, 2016 at 5:19 pm #

    Your incredible!

  2. Jolene November 27, 2016 at 5:29 pm #

    I’ve often considered doing this. I can’t donate blood because I’m below the weight limit but I think that’s different for plasma isn’t it? Good for you for doing it. If you can benefit and save a life it’s a great thing!

    • drshaywest November 28, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

      You may have to check and see. I’m not sure what the minimum weight limit is 😀

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