A few months ago I decided I was finished with donating blood. A few factors decided into why I would no longer donate.
1. The way our blood service ran in Australia. Whole blood is all here and plasma is purchased from the overseas where donors are reimbursed for… well, see number two.
2. Blood and tissue can only be donated freely in Australia – no reimbursement for iron pills, travel or even my time. Perhaps I am desensitised to that fuzzy warm feeling of cold saline hitting my vein when giving plasma.
3. Pain. Recently my primary vein for donating has experienced pain. Whether that was a result of poor needlework or not I couldn’t be sure. But I do know from past experience – the needle doesn’t have to be completely inserted two inches deep. The only times I’ve had pain is when that happens.
I reached the 50 donation milestone. I was vegan at the time and got a block of Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate Block. Too bad it wasn’t a Whittaker’s Oat Milk Chocolate Block. I had to decline and being socially anxious made me more uncomfortable than usual for the donation.
And at the very end here we have the 52nd, and final donation! Whole blood was a good way to go out as whole blood is how it all started back in October 2014 in a mobile blood van. For now I’ll roll my sleeves down and keep my iron stores self-contained. Plus I get to keep all those PFAS chemicals that I would usually lose through plasma.
Here’s the tip zone! Take iron supplements if you are vegan, or even if you aren’t. Around 250 mg of iron is lost for every whole blood donation. Keep an eye on your blood stats with regular iron studies through your GP (general practitioner). Remember you are losing a maximum of four whole blood donations a year that’s 1000 mg, or 1 gram! Your haemoglobin levels might be stable but your ferritin (iron stores) may be depleting. You don’t want that.
Plasma or platelets is a little less taxing, depends on how often you attend. You can go every two weeks but my scar tissue never healed fast enough to keep up with those levels. 12 plasma donations a year, at four week intervals, work out to be ~750 mg of iron lost. Increase that to 18 plasma donations a year, at three week intervals, and you loose around ~1100 mg.
Alternate between plasma and whole blood? You’re going to lose a lot of iron. Supplement. There’s actually a good summary on the Lifeblood website. The numbers above were pulled from a scientific paper I found, but the Lifeblood numbers match close enough.
Another fun tip is taking iron every other (100-200 mg elemental) helps lower hepcidin levels which inhibit iron absorption into your blood. Vitamin C helps to override this too. So you could dose every day with vitamin C, or every other day, or a combination of the two. The gastrointestinal effects can be quite annoying. Every other day will reduce side effects.
And there we have it, the end of an era. 25 whole blood, 25 plasma, 2 platelets. So long and thanks for all the mini pretzels! 🥨 💁♀️