Donating Plasma

More than 10 years ago, following the example of my friend Lowell, I started to donate plasma, every 56 days, at Canadian Blood Services here in Charlottetown.

At the time my office was right across the street, and it was a pleasant, stress-free way to take part of an afternoon off, and do some good.

After a few years, though, things fell off the rails: I got sick just before an appointment and had to cancel it, and then neglected to re-book, and I fell off the call-back radar. Then I moved my office, and didn’t have the visual reminder to donate every day on my way in.

Back in December, though, I had coffee with Lowell, and he mentioned a recent donation of his, and I realized that 10 years had passed since my last donation.

So when I got back to the office I called 1-888-2-DONATE and booked myself an appointment, and today was the day.

In the intervening decade they’ve really upped their game over there: they now email out a link to an online questionnaire on the morning of your appointment so that you can fill out the “Have you ever had Chagas’ disease, Babesiosis, or Leishmaniasis?”-style questions in the privacy of your own computer; the end of this process is an encrypted QR code that the nurse scans at the start of the donation process. It shaves 10 minutes off the appointment.

They’ve also removed the requirement to provide a complete history of all the countries you’ve visited recently: during my heady travel days that alone used to take 5 minutes.

The donation clinic has been renovated, and now operates more like an (efficient, friendly, no-waiting) airline check-in counter.

And the Haemonetics PCS2 machines that do the plasma extraction have been upgraded to work almost twice as fast (an upgrade, my nurse told me, that was done entirely in software).

And so for my 1:20 p.m. appointment I was in, donated, feed cookies and juice, and out the door by 2:30 p.m.

And most of the nurses, bless their hearts, remembered me from the last go-around.

Donating plasma has always been easy and painless; now it’s easier and painless. If you’ve ever considered doing it–or if you’re just casting about for a regular selfless act to fill out your schedule–I encourage you to book an appointment.

I’ve already booked my next one.

I Gave Life bandaid


Bob Shand's picture
Bob Shand on February 9, 2018 - 08:46 Permalink

I too used to donate Plasma on a regular basis. However I understand that I'm now prevented from donating at all due to living in the UK and consuming Beef during the human BSE/vCJD debacle. I will enquire again - perhaps I can donate plasma even if I don't donate whole blood.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on February 9, 2018 - 10:12 Permalink

From the questions on the questionnaire, they replaced the “tell us every place you’ve traveled in the last 10 years” requirement with a list of targeted questions related to specific ineligibility. I’ve found the staff at 1888-2-DONATE uncommonly helpful in answering questions about donate, and I suspect you could easily find out whether or not you’re still eligible or not with a quick call.

Also makes me wonder what the U.K. does for its own blood and blood products supply.

Bob Shand's picture
Bob Shand on February 15, 2018 - 20:49 Permalink

I happened to be passing the Blood donation centre today, so I stuck my head in to enquire. I'm still prohibited from donating whole blood and plasma. This is due to me residing in the UK during the BSE/vCJD scandal. If you lived in the UK you're prohibited from donating if you resided there between something like 1980 and 1996.

I used to donate Platelets in the UK. The PEI office doesn't do platelet donations - but Halifax does. They're unsure if Platelets are under the same prohibition. Questions are being asked, and with any luck I'll be able to donate Platelets again soon.

I believe that the UK just makes use of the local resource; and takes whatever blood products it can get from its population. I don't see another way to do it.

Bob Shand's picture
Bob Shand on February 28, 2018 - 20:48 Permalink

I got a return call from the donation centre today. I'm prohibited from donating any blood products at all. I guess I'll just have to keep my O- to myself :(

Kevin Lewis's picture
Kevin Lewis on February 9, 2018 - 08:54 Permalink

I had a similar experience with my whole blood donations. In the days of the pop-up clinics, I went as often as they were here, then in 1991 I had my tonsils removed and the clinic was shortly after. I was rejected as a donor and did not go bacck, not out of being offended, but several factors. About 5 years ago, my sister's father-in-law was in hospital and needed daily transfusions and that was the impetus for going back. I was going every 8 weeks and half the time was rejected for low iron. I switched to 12 weeks and that has been the difference. And the time-saving changes they made are helpful. I have had appointments as long as 1 hr 45 min in the past. My sister started going when I did, and her husband and his 3 brothers. Making donations personal does help sometimes.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on February 9, 2018 - 10:13 Permalink

You’re right: the first time I donated to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Foundation campaign came the year our son Oliver was born, in distress, and QEH staff saved his life through their interventions.

(It didn’t hurt that the solicitation letter came from you!)

Kevin Lewis's picture
Kevin Lewis on February 9, 2018 - 10:39 Permalink

I forgot about that letter. Tristan was a baby in that picture.