Blood Plasma Donation #12

With all my vaccinations up to date and my iron bolstered, it’s back to my relatively regular, varied (and somewhat) scheduled programming. I stopped by the local blood donation centre (see above) and had a rather interesting visit today. Interesting enough to write a blog post on.

First up a bit of background. Back in May I donated some platelets a first for me. However, I was only able to give two donations before my platelets dipped under the one-year “ban-hammer” threshold of 150×10^9/L, at 147×10^9/L. Leaving me with either plasma or whole blood donations. More recently, I’ve held off donating whole blood as my irons stores were getting a bit on the low side (vegan!). The Lifeblood folk have to consider the health of the recipient and the donor.

Anyway, I am a squish ball donor. I’ve never had much luck with the “alternative” methods of getting enough blood to my cold, dead hands. I tell them very firmly that I will not roll the squish ball. I will not even *try* to roll a heat pack around in my hand either. Every time I’ve done that the machine beeps at me with insufficient blood flow. Squish ball to maximum. That’s my motto! It’s worked for 32 donations so far, with squish ball having being there every step of the way.

Today, I witnessed two donors with similar issues. One, a lady to my left had her donation cut short. As a male, repeat donor, I can give 824mL of plasma. I got 825mL in this time – take that the system! Poor lady only got through 217mL of her ~600mL before being released due to too much pressure. The nurse may have just picked the wrong vein. I know when I let the nurses loose they usually pick the right one. Left arm, middle vein – that’s my mainstay. My right arm, middle vein has a little pain, so I reserve it for whole blood donations since they only last eight minutes instead of 40 minutes. Anyway, after they had bandaged her arm up she queried,

“They can still use it, right?”

“Absolutely, yes”, the nurse shot back after glancing at the machine stats.

“Thank you!”, she said in a cheery tone.

“No, thank you for donating!”, declared the nurse.

Once the donor had left the area… the nurse went over to the sink and cocked her head back and declared, “217-millilitres? Try again next time love!”, before pouring the entire donation down the sink.

Well, that last bit didn’t happen, although they did pour something down the sink. I’ll come back to that. I’m quite happy to have never been kicked out yet before a complete donation. There was that time my arm didn’t quite clot and I dripped blood everywhere. Oh and that other time the nurse missed the vein and almost they fainted, that was a very close one. Good thing I have two arms… haha!

The next thing to happen, was a very small child going off to the interview rooms. I wondered how a child was allowed to donate. They were not a child. I guess I’m not a good judge of age or weight.

This donor had issues with slow flow as well. I was able to not only catch and overtake them but completely finish before they had reached their halfway mark. Yes, they were using the roll method and were “upgraded” by nursing staff to the heat pack method – which made the donation even slower.

The reasoning behind the roll method is simple. If you are still squeezing and blood tried to return, i.e. you’re distracted by your phone or book, your veins will explode… Personally, I’ve never understood why people read a book or use their phone when donating. I just zone out at the TV and focus on the noise of the machine with the inflating of the cuff. The machine tells you when to prepare to squeeze and when to relax.

And even though it was probably going to end up taking the above donor twice as long, they were sticking at it. Kudos! Again, this might have just been a slow vein that was being tapped. But I felt for them when the nurses gave them the heat pack ball, until I realised how distracted they was on their phone. They weren’t paying any attention to the machine! OK, maybe this one is better off with the safer roll method.

Back to my donation. As I reached the final stage I realised my isotonic saline was still half full. It turns out that the saline sourced is new-old-stock bought on the cheap from hospitals. In hindsight, the yellowed rubber connectors gave that away. Remember that drain-talk from earlier? They were pouring the saline down the sink. Even half of my saline would be destined for the sink. It also reminded me that we, as Australians, use more plasma than we donate. The rest is sought from overseas using the money saved from the free donations we give. The lowest bidder and all that, kind of concerning – but what can I do? Withhold donations? That’s a bad idea for all involved.

Although some of the penny pinching is starting to show. When I started donating in 2014 they gave Byron Bay Cookies. They disappeared a few years ago now but made a brief comeback. Since then I have become vegan, so the point is a little bit moot now with all the milk and butter involved in a cookie. But now they’re messing with my beloved Arnott’s Jatz three-pack, replacing it with…

Crak Oz. Yep. Rumour has it if you turn them over and check along the crease they are made in China or contain no Australian ingredients. Either way, they are no substitute for… Oh. That slogan makes a lot of sense now. My lucky 13th plasma donation is in a month. Let’s go! #teamplasma