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.