A few years back when I was living in Australia, I used to donate plasma regularly at a nearby Australian Red Cross Lifeblood centre. It was not a necessity, but I used to seek an inherent joy in the process. As someone who has been donating for over a decade, I want to share my views on plasma donation and why everyone should donate regularly, if their health permits.
But first, let me debunk the two most common myths about plasma donation. Note that this is not medical advice but based on my personal experience donating over 20 times.
Myth 1: Plasma Donation Process Is Painful
Many people look at the plasmapheresis machine and get scared. I won’t judge them, it does give you a chill initially. For someone who fears injections and can’t even look at the needle, it can be nerve-wracking. I am one of those people, but I do it anyway. I ask the nurse to let me know when he/ she pricks me and I look away.
The only time you feel a slight pain is when you get that needle prick for a second. Given the possibility that it can save a life or two, I think it’s worth enduring such a mild pain for a split second. Isn’t it?
The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear
- Nelson Mandela
Myth 2: Plasma Donation Makes You Weak
I am not sure where this notion came from, but a lot of people ask me if I feel unwell or weak after a donation. The truth is, I feel mentally uplifted great after every donation. If you are a healthy adult, your body constantly produces plasma.
It’s like asking a rich person if you feel poor after donating some money to a charity.
Blood or Plasma donation does not make you weak. If there are any potential health or safety concerns, the doctor/nurse will let you know during the pre-donation interview and consider you ineligible for donation.
Now that we understand that plasma donation is neither painful nor does it leave you feeling weak afterwards, here are four reasons I believe everyone can donate plasma regularly if they can.
1. Plasma Donation Can Save Lives in 18 Different Ways
Convalescent Plasma Therapy for COVID-19 has been in the news recently but there are many more benefits of plasma. Here is an exhaustive list of 18 different ways in which plasma can save lives, a list I saw at one of the Lifeblood donor centres in Brisbane city.
- Plasma is used to protect kids against smallpox
- Plasma helps treat brain disorders
- Plasma helps protect patients with immune deficiencies
- Plasma helps protect against Tetanus
- Plasma can help protect against Rh disease in newborns
- Plasma can be used to protect against Measles
- Plasma helps in the fight against tetanus injections
- Plasma is used to prevent blood clots in patients with rare blood disorders
- Plasma is used to help treat complications from liver disease
- Plasma helps fight infection during bone marrow transplants
- Plasma can be used as a treatment for patients with Haemophilia B
- Plasma can help prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis in patients with rare blood disorders
- Plasma is used during complex heart surgery
- Plasma can help stop critical bleeding
- Plasma can be used to treat rare inherited blood disorders
- Plasma is used to protect those exposed to Hepatitis B
- Plasma can be used to support patients with severe kidney disease
- Plasma can be used to treat complications from severe burns
I posted this photo on Instagram a few years ago to celebrate my 10th plasma donation with the Australian Red Cross
With so many benefits of your precious donation, I think it’s fair to take out a few hours from your busy schedule and do this noble deed of helping others. One donation can help save up to three lives!
2. An Opportunity for Regular Health Check-ups Free of Cost
Every time you donate, the centre collects your blood sample to run basic health checks and tests for any viral or bacterial infections. If you are a regular donor, it is like getting a free health check-up regularly depending on your frequency of donation. Some of the tests I remember based on my interaction with several nurses and donor centre staff includes:
- Haemoglobin levels (HB)
- Platelets count
- RBC and WBC counts
- Hepatitis B and C
- Antibodies to CMV
- and many more
If you are a regular donor, it is like getting a free health check-up on a regular basis depending on your frequency of donation
These tests may vary from organisation to organisation and government regulations. So, if compassion is not the only motivation you are looking for, this is still a good enough reason to donate regularly. Typically, it is feasible to donate plasma once a month. Even if you donate once every two months, that’s like six free health checkups a year. You never know, you may find out about some deadly disease in its nascent stage which you wouldn’t have otherwise. Or maybe some common deficiencies such as lower iron levels.
3. Plasma Gets Replenished Within 48 Hours of Donation
In a plasma-only donation, the liquid portion of the donor’s blood i.e. plasma is separated from the cells. Blood is drawn from one arm and sent through a high-tech machine that collects the plasma. The donor’s red blood cells and platelets are then returned to the donor along with some saline.
Since red blood cells and platelets are returned, your body can replace the blood volume (plasma) within 48 hours. In the case of blood donation, it takes four to eight weeks for the body to completely replace the donated red blood cells you donated. It’s probably why a lot of organisations allow donating plasma every 2 weeks as opposed to blood donation which can be done only once in 12 weeks.
Each donation can save up to three lives and plasma can last up to 1 year when frozen. For something that gets automatically replenished within two days, it’s a small sacrifice with a massive impact.
4. The Joy of Giving Is Priceless
Plasma donation or donation of any kind is a compassionate and selfless deed. In a world where everyone is busy making it big for themselves, small acts of kindness and compassion can have a lasting ripple effect within the community.
There is immense joy in giving, something we often take for granted. Helping others can boost your confidence, self-esteem and give you a sense of purpose in life.
I am also a firm believer in good karma. So, I try to give back as much as I can without expecting anything in return. Another reason to donate plasma and make a difference, isn’t it?
Contrary to what most people believe, plasma donation is neither painful nor does it make you weak afterwards. It is a selfless act of kindness and compassion. These four reasons make me believe that everyone should donate plasma regularly.
- Plasma Donation Can Save Lives in 18 Different Ways — Plasma donation has gained widespread popularity due to convalescent plasma therapy for COVID19 patients. However, there are about 18 other benefits of plasma and one donation can help save up to three lives.
- An Opportunity for Regular Health Check-ups Free of Cost — Every time you donate, the centre collects your blood sample to run basic health checks and tests for any viral or bacterial infections. If you are a regular donor, it is like getting a free health check-up regularly depending on your frequency of donation.
- Plasma Gets Replenished Within 48 Hours of Donation — Since red blood cells and platelets are returned, your body can replace the donated plasma within 48 hours. In the case of blood donation, it takes four to eight weeks for the body to completely replace the donated red blood cells you donated.
- The Joy of Giving Is Priceless — Plasma donation or donation of any kind is a compassionate and selfless deed. In a world where everyone is busy making it big for themselves, small acts of kindness and compassion can have a lasting ripple effect within the community.
Please donate while you are able and in good health. Because someone else will do the same when you and your loved ones are in need.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. The views expressed are personal and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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