I donated blood for the first time around seven years ago. I had only recently moved to Sydney and was working in an office in the CBD at the time. Donating was something that had always been at the back of my mind, but somehow until then I never really got my act together and made an appointment.
I’ve had a lot of blood tests over the years and always hated needles, but for some reason the idea of this needle, a needle that could take my blood and give it to someone who needed it more than me, was different. I was scared, sure, but I was also excited, with that kind of rush you get from doing something you know is good.
I gave whole blood a few times after that initial donation, but I wasn’t able to do it as regularly as I would have liked due to iron deficiencies and general forgetfulness. But then came the turning point for me – the discovery of plasma donation!
The process for plasma donation is quite different to a regular blood donation. It’s pretty cool actually – they take your whole blood, which goes into a machine where your red and white blood cells and platelets are separated from the plasma. The red cells, white cells and platelets are then returned to your body (along with some saline). The whole process takes around 45 minutes and because your red blood cells are returned to you you’re able to donate plasma every two weeks!
Donating blood, plasma or platelets is by far the easiest feel-good moment you can have. When you walk through the doors of any Red Cross Blood Service Centre you’re treated like royalty. There are televisions to watch while you lay back and donate or you can take a book to read (as long as you can turn the pages with one hand!). And every nurse I have ever spoken to has been professional, friendly and so thankful that I almost feel guilty!
One of the coolest things about plasma is the number of different uses it has. It’s the most versatile component of our blood and can actually be processed into 17 different products. These products help create treatments for certain types of cancer, immune deficiencies, trauma, shock and burns, infectious diseases and more. And for people like me (with big veins and a common blood type) it makes more sense than regular whole blood donations.
The real fun starts when your donation is over and you’re led through to the tea room. There you’ll be plied withas many cups of juice, tea, coffee and even milkshakes you can handle! Plus there are biscuits, toast, raisin toast and plenty of other yummy snacks for you to munch on (I’m drawing a mental blank on the food though because all I ever eat is the raisin toast!).
If you’ve ever thought about donating (and you’re eligible), I really do urge you to make an appointment. Only 1 in 30 people give blood, but 1 in 3 will need blood or blood products in their lifetime. With a single donation you can – quite literally – save a life. And if that’s not enough for you, think of the karmic brownie points and raisin toast!
* All images except plasma partner package sourced from the Australian Red Cross Blood Service website.