Bleed Times

I am into my fourth year of making regular voluntary blood plasma donations at the Canadian Blood Services centre in Charlottetown.

Truth be told, I’ve been at it for longer than that, but I fell into a lapse for an awfully long time simply because, at the time, the mechanisms for “donor engagement” were weak, and I stopped getting reminders to make appointments.

In the intervening years things have improved dramatically, and there’s now an excellent, useful website and an excellent, useful mobile app to support donors, combined with a full-court press WUPHF-style ”we’re going to remind you in all possible media” engagement effort that makes it next to impossible to drop off.

One of the things the updated website sports is a “Bleed Times” chart that shows the time it took to donate–or at least the “harvesting” phase thereof–with the option to export the image, or the data underlying. Here’s mine, showing donations from 2018 to present:

Chart showing time on the X-axis and minutes on the Y-axis, that shows the time it took to complete my donation, with values ranging from 15 minutes to almost 30 minutes.

The standard plasma donation is 500 ml. There’s a cycle to the donation process: blood is removed, plasma extracted, and blood returned. Each cycle takes 5 to 6 minutes, and, depending on a number of conditions, sometimes it takes two cycles to complete the 500 ml donation, sometimes it takes three, and, in rare occasions, four. That’s why the bleed time varies from 15 minutes to almost 30 minutes.

The donor centre in Charlottetown has been open throughout the pandemic (they were closed at the very beginning for plasma donations, but have been reopened fully since the summer). As with everything else in public life, they have new protocols in place to mitigate COVID-19 transmission: mask wearing, plexiglass barriers, a reduced set of pre-screening operations (they no longer take your blood pressure or your weight).

Despite these enhancements, donating plasma remains remarkably easy and, if not “painless,” at least limited to a few very quick, skilfully-executed jabs. I’m generally in, pre-screened, and have completed my donation in under an hour.

There are plasma donation centres in St. John’s, Charlottetown, Halifax, Saint John, London, Sudbury, Edmonton and Calgary, and you can make an appointment quickly and easily online.


Kevin's picture
Kevin on January 16, 2021 - 22:21 Permalink

I've been on forced hiatus from my regular whole blood donations. I stopped in 2019 after a heart problem diagnosis as a self-medicating precaution advised by my daughter. Since surgery, they would not take me anyway. They did say they would reassess after 1 year, which is rapidly approaching. I am very doubtful they will take me back even in the case that everything went fine and I did not even require a transfusion. I was amazed to learn that they harvested blood and fluids once my heart was stopped, then cleaned that blood and gave it back to me after. Simply amazing. If I had needed a transfusion, I would be even more grateful to the many people who donate regularly or even one time.