Thursday, December 4, 2014

Q: Can You Donate Plasma More Than Twice a Week?

A: Way back in the dark days of 2009, I devised a brilliant plan. I hated working, so I decided never to do it again. To do that, I came up with various methods, some more deviant than others (like stealing the neighbor's unprotected wifi for my voIP phone - butabing, free internet and phone service!)

But my most "brilliant" plan yet was to donate plasma. I watched the safety video on my first visit. I listened to the dangers of donating too much plasma. For 2 whole years, my plan worked marvellously - I was writing checks my body can cash, and taking more time off of work as a result. This, I thought while a needle was sticking out of my arm, is the life. I'm on my way to a better, work-free future.

What Happens When You Donate Too Much Plasma

But then, I got greedy. I wanted more sweet, sweet plasma donation funds, and going twice a week wasn't going to cut it. CSL plasma painted the nail on my index finger with a special polish that glowed under a blacklight on each visit.

The idea was that if I donated at a different facility, they would use their own special blacklight to see that my index finger glowed brightly.

Each center had their own nail, I casually inquired between the blood pressure test and finger prick one day. CSL painted the index finger, Talecris, the middle, and Biolife, the ring finger. It makes your fingernails glow like this:

Thinking I was super clever (I wasn't) I devised another plan to get around the twice-a-week restriction.

Here's what I did:
  1. Used acetone nail polish remover to get rid of the glow. 
  2. Bought this blacklight off of Amazon to make sure the nail polish was gone.
  3. Used a fake SSN at each plasma center.
  4. Wore long sleeves, and alternated arms on each plasma donation day.
  5. Collected so, so much plasma money.
At first, I donated plasma 4 times a week (2 times a week at BIOlife, and twice at CSL.) Neither plasma center suspected a thing. Great! I thought. What a simple way to double my earnings, and all for practically nothing! Then after 2 weeks, I decided to triple my earnings, by donating at Octopharma (who didn't paint my nails at all.)

I left Sundays as my only day to relax, and stay home from the plasma center.

Health Risks of Frequent Plasma Donation

After 3 months, some serious health problems began. I felt tired all the time, so I took an iron supplement, which seemed to solve it. But I also turned pale, and felt cold and tired all the time Then, in January, I developed a hacking cough, so I drank more OJ, to boost my immune system.

Then, I had the worst shock of my 23 year old life. I was at the library, checking out a book for an advanced economics course, when my entire left side went numb and tingly. I had seen enough emergency! 911 episodes to know I was having a stroke.

I woke up 3 weeks later in the ICU, in a medically induced coma. They told me a blood clot had broken off from my calf, and nearly lodged in my left lung. It nearly gave me me a pulmonary embolism. I was very, very lucky to be alive.

Me in the hospital.

I since did some research, and learned that plasma is much more than just water. It heals cells, hair, and skin tissue, transports red blood cells (RBC's), and contains protiens which keep blood from clotting. By donating plasma 6 days a week, I was draining my body of a very important, healing yellow fluid.

Lesson learned. The FDA guidelines that regulate plasma to twice a week are in place for a reason. For all  my plasma donation, I earned less than $13,600, and ended up with $52,423 worth of hospital bills. So to those wondering if they can donate plasma twice a week the answer is definitely yes - just donate within the guidelines!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Does Donating Plasma Lower Your Cholesterol?

So, people these days will do anything basically to lose a little weight. That's why it doesn't surprise me to hear the latest weight loss and cholesterol fad is donating plasma or blood to lower your cholesterol.

I think this probably came about from a popular Huffington Post news article recently that said one pint of blood equals 417 cal, so you can lose 417 cal in an hour, the same as doing heavy cardio or jumping jacks just by donating a pint of blood.

To be honest, I don't think donating a pint will result in any weight loss, since you can only donate blood once every six months, and you just get hungry again to replenish the calories you lost for donating.

As for the cholesterol lost from donating plasma, you only lose about 16 g of calories, which is equal to about 1 ounce. This sounds like a lot of cholesterol loss, but when you stop to think about it, it's actually good cholesterol your losing, because the bad cholesterol, the HDL, sticks to your veins so it can't come out in liquid form.

In other words, the cholesterol you're losing when donating plasma is water-soluble, which is the good cholesterol that comes from seafood, peanut butter, olive oil, and mono and polyunsaturated fats, which is good for your heart.

So you might lose some good cholesterol, but since it's the good cholesterol that keeps the bad cholesterol in check, you're actually not doing your body any favors.

So if you want to donate plasma or blood, just do it for the cash. You can earn $60 a week, which is $240 a month. You can also help a lot of people by pharmaceutical companies using your plasma to make flu vaccines.

But don't do donate to lose cholesterol, or fat, because any effects are temporary, and any longer-term effects are actually detrimental to your body, and definitely won't help you get in shape.

Why Do I Pass Out After Donating Plasma?

Okay so there are a lot of reasons that you might pass out donating plasma. You could have low blood pressure which they tend to check for the plasma donation center but some people lie on the test and say that they have perfectly fine blood pressure.

You could also have celiac disease or diabetes, which tend to cause low blood pressure at random times and make you pass out while donating plasma.

They also say that smoking causes low blood pressure. This is why they tell you not to donate plasma for one hour after smoking cigarettes. But I don't know if that's true or not, or just a lie from those PSA antismoking commercials.

Other Causes of Low Blood Pressure

As for other things that cause low blood pressure, there's anorexia, and not eating for a while. If you take low blood pressure medication with hypertension, this can cause low blood pressure, but they tend to check for that at the plasma center before you go.

Those are all the things I know about that cause low blood pressure. I guess there's also hard drugs, downers, barbiturates like morphine, heroin, and alcohol. So, you know, just don't do any hard drugs like a day before donating plasma, and you should be all right.

So yeah, basically, the reason for passing out during plasma donation is low blood pressure, and most of the causes of low blood pressure they screen for before you even go and donate.

So if you don't lie on the test, and you don't have any diseases that you don't know about, you should be fine donating plasma, and not pass out. If a keeps happening though, you should probably get to the doctor to test for some hidden underlying medical condition, because that's not really normal to pass out during plasma donation.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Can You Drive Home After Donating Plasma?

I have a very specific routine that I follow after donating plasma. I get my machine beep scanned and the money deposited. Then, I check the in-house plasma center ATM to make sure the money is actually in my account.

Finally, I rip the gauze bandage off on the way to my car, since leaving it on while trying to bend your elbow and steer is too uncomfortable.

But one Thursday in 2012 while leaving the plasma center, my routine was thrown off. The money was in my account, but I just didn't feel "right."

I felt dizzy, light-headed, nauseous, and dehydrated - sort of like being pregnant. I felt like I wanted to pass out.

I decided the feeling was from not eating my pre-plasma donation meal of Yoplait yogurt and a microwave 50 cent burrito, so I climbed into my '86 Pontiac Sunbird and drove home anyways.

Driving the car, I still didn't feel right. My arms felt like they were falling asleep, and the steering wheel felt heavy. I thought maybe the power steering broke - it turns out my internal power steering was broken.

When I woke up, my airbag was open, the horn was blaring, and my car's front end was wrapped around a light pole. The fire and ambulance people were asking if I felt alright, if I could follow their fingers, if I could count to 10.

I got into a car wreck after donating plasma. Since then, I freaked out a lot, figured that it could have been a lot worse, and did a little research.

It turns out that for people who already have low blood pressure (like me,) donating blood plasma can lower blood pressure to dangerous levels for driving. And if you have diabetes, the risk of going into a diabetic coma increases by 50% after a seemingly normal plasma donation.

There's a risk of passing out, falling asleep, or even becoming paralyzed (yes, actually paralyzed!) following plasma donation. Thank god I survived - though my poor Pontiac Sunbird didn't.

After a week, I felt like myself again, and the uncomfortable feeling of slight neck stiffness and whiplash subsided. Minor bumps, bangs, and post-accident bruising aside, I took the time to sit back and reflect on the accident, to decide whether I should donate again.

Here's what I came up with: My car was a total loss, according to the Allstate insurance company. But at least I kept my health, and I didn't die. Thank you, PSA ads, for telling me to always wear my seatbelt. Next time I might not be so lucky.

From now on, I'm taking the bus when donating plasma, or having a friend drive me. The money is too good to stop donating. But definitely, driving home after plasma donation isn't worth taking the risk.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Can You Get a Blood Clot From Donating Plasma?

Q: My sister swears she got a blood clot in her leg after donating plasma. She even had to have surgery to remove the clot. Now she wants to sue Talecris plasma for health damages. I've donated plasma before, but never suffered a blood clot. Is this true, can your blood get clotted, or is it just a load of BS?

Answer: No, it's impossible to get a blood clot during plasma donation. The anti-coagulant prevents blood clots in your arms, legs, and thighs. The funny, cold feeling you get when you donate plasma during the blood return? It's anti-coagulant. Anticoagulant prevents pulmonary embolisms, stroke, and deep vein thrombosis 99.9% of the time.

Here is the percent chance of getting a blood clot during plasma donation:

DVT (deep vein thrombosis blood clot in arms or legs): .0009%
Pulmonary Embolism (blood clot in the lungs): .00008%
Stroke (blood clot blocking tissue in the brain): .000006%
Superficial Thrombophlebitis (blood clot in the skin): .001%

Can I Donate Plasma With a Family History of Stroke?

Just because you have a family history of blood clots and stroke, doesn't mean you have a high chance of getting a stroke. If you do have a family history, however, make sure you don't smoke for 1 hour before donating plasma, as this increases the chance of blood clots.

Also, squeeze your stress ball when donating, and tell the Phlebotomist right away if you have tingling in your arms, legs, and feet, numbness, or it feels like your legs are very hot or falling asleep.

These are all signs of blood being blocked to the tissues of your body, or  a blood clot forming in your small veins. If you feel these weird symptoms, you need to go to the hospital right away.

Can I Donate Plasma With a Blood Clotting Disorder?

Donating plasma is relatively safe, unless you have a clotting disorder like creutzfeldt-jakob disease, Factor V deficiency, Antithrombin Deficiency, Low Protein C or S, or are hypercoaguable. It's important to be honest when answering the screening questions. They ask if you have blood clotting disorders on the screening test, so don't lie, it could kill you!

They also ask if you take blood thinning medication such as Warfarin, which causes uncontrollable bleeding during plasma donation. Overall, plasma donation centers are still in business because they're safe enough not to be sued, so it's highly unlikely you'll develop a blood clot when donating plasma.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How to Lower Your Heart Rate to Donate Plasma

Having a high heart rate causes over 90% of plasma donation deferrals. If your blood pressure rate is higher than 85/15, you will be deferred from donating plasma for the rest of the day. When you run to the center because your car broke down, or you can't stop thinking about that horror movie you saw last night, your heart rate rises.

Here's how to lower your heart rate to donate plasma:
  1. Leave your stress at the door. Stress creates high blood pressure. High blood pressure makes your heart beat fast. Before going into the plasma center, focus yourself. Forget about your stress, marriage, job, money troubles - just concentrate on donating plasma. Then walk in.
  2. Wait 15 minutes before going back to the testing center. Sit in the little plastic chair a while. Watch some grainy TV. Listen to donors get called. You'll be more relaxed, and your heart rate will slow down.
  3. Breathe deeply while you're waiting to be tested. Do this while you're waiting to be called back. Breathing deeply is a great relaxation technique.
  4. IMPORTANT: breathe deeply while the pressure cuff is on your arm. Breathe in. Wait. Breathe out. Wait. Breathe deeply and slowly. Your heart rate will fall to a good level for donation.
  5. Optional: think happy, relaxing thoughts while your blood pressure is being tested. Combine happy, relaxing thoughts with your breathing techniques.
  6. Relax your arm during testing. Think wispy willow, not sturdy tree trunk. I can't tell you how many donors didn't pass the heart rate test because their arm was too stiff. When you stiffen your arm, you put more pressure against the blood measuring cuff, and the test reads the heart rate higher.

 What Happens if I Fail the Heart Rate Test?

If you fail the blood pressure/heart rate test, you get to wait 15 minutes, and test again. If you fail the test the first time, breathe deeply, relax your body, and think relaxing thoughts before re-testing. If you fail the blood pressure test twice, you are deferred from donating for one day. You have to wait for another day to donate.

I've been donating plasma for 25 years. I use the techniques above, I've never been rejected because the donation center says my heart rate is too high. Just relax, breathe deep, and think about not having to get your finger pricked again tomorrow.

Does Blood Type Affect Platelet Donation Compensation?

There is normally a tremendous demand for A positive platelets. Platelets are most often used by leukemia patients. They control blood flow in your body and are used to stop bleeding associated with cancer and surgery.

AB Positive Blood Type

A donor with AB positive blood is the universal plasma donor. The Blood Center urges you to consider giving a plasma pheresis donation. Plasma carries clotting factors and nutrients. It is given to trauma patients, organ transplant recipients, newborns and patients with clotting disorders. AB negative donors are the. universal plasma donors. Plasma from AB type blood can be given to all patients needing a plasma transfusion regardless of their blood type. A Plasma pheresis donation is needed most from these donors.

O Negative Blood Type
O negative donors are the universal red blood cell donors. All patients can use o negative blood and it would be most beneficial for everyone if such donors took time to donate whole blood or double red cell apheresis. Red blood cells are used to carry oxygen to all cells. They are given to surgery and trauma patients and those with blood disorders such as anemia and sickle cell anemia.

A Negative Blood

Given the relatively few numbers of donors with the A negative blood type, patients are best served by a platelet pheresis donation.

Donating With B Positive Blood

B positive is a relatively rare blood group, so whole blood donations of this type are very important. B negative is also a relatively rare blood group. Giving whole blood or double red cell apheresis will help the most.
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