Thursday, January 28, 2010

Adventures in Plasma Donation

Ok, so since I'm strapped for cash right now and I've been a blood donor before, I'm considering donating plasma. I've already looked into the whole process and the place where I'd be going and it looks clean and the process appears to be safe, and there is a strict screening process for donors. Apparently these places are regulated by the FDA and an independent regulatory organization and are basically operated by pharmaceutical companies, which then use the plasma to manufactor medications for those with clotting disorders, immune disorders, burns, etc. But I have some concerns because donating plasma seems to carry stigma based on some of the cientele they receive and because you receive money in return. I have an appointment this Monday and am a bit nervous.

Update 2/02:
Ok, it's Monday and my first appointment. I wasn't able to get anyone else to go with me, both my best friend and my parents are firmly against selling plasma for ethical reasons. So I borrowed a family member's pickup truck (remember, I'm still without a vehicle since my car accident in December) and went to my appointment by myself. I made sure to have the required identification documents (letter of proof of social security number from the social security office, driver's license, and a piece of mail for proof of mailing address), a book to read, and my CD player with a book on CD to pass the time during the wait and procedure. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was 1) How busy they were 2) All the staff handling clients apeared to be phlebotomists and other medical professionals (including those operating the front desk) and were using universal precautions and wearing lab coats, 3) How clean and ultra-modern the place looked, and 4) They have a nice supervised playroom for the children of clients. After a short wait, they got my information put into the computer, my finger print scanned (to login each time), took me back to the procedure area and had a phlebotomist check my veins, then took me back up front and showed me how to do the automated medical history questionare on a self-service computer. After I filled out the history questionare, I was then taken into a small private office to review my history questionare with one of the medical staff. She reviewed my prescription medications and asked what condition they were for, and how long I've been taking them, but seemed particularly interested in the medication I'm on for depression. Uh oh, I thought, something's wrong, that isn't on the medication deferral list (I know from being a whole blood donor). She then took me back to her office/examine room for a short physical examination to make sure that donating won't adversely affect my health, a part of the normal screening process. On the way back, out of curiousity, I asked what her titled was and she told me licensed nurse practioner, with a bit of an attitude (like, "Why'd you ask that?") but over all was professional. Once we were in her office, she explained that I couldn't donate today, that I'd need to be on my medication for 30 days to make sure the medication was at its peak dose in my blood stream, because the medication is present in plasma and when a person donates plasma, it can temporarily lower the amount of medication in ones blood stream. Because of this, she explained, for certain medical conditions, where a patient needs to have their medication consistantly in their blood stream, they would need the prescribing doctor's approval before they can let the person donate, and such as my case and they would need my physician's approval before they can let me donate.

She then had me fill out a release of information form and handed me a form to have my primary care physician, who's been treating me for my depression, to fill out and to fax back to the plasma center. Then the medical director of the plasma center has to review what my physician wrote to determine whether or not I'm eligable to donate. Well, that was that. I need to get a physical because I'm going back to school and I'm due for an annual medication review for my depression anyways, so after leaving the plasma center, I headed over to my primary care physician's office to drop off the form and to schedule an appointment. So I have an appointment at my primary care physician next Monday and may have to wait until I've been on my medicine for 30 days before I can donate, depending on what my primary care doc writes on the form for the plasma center and if the plasma center director approves me. Darn! I was hoping I could start donating today, not to mention I've been drinking like a liter and a half of Gatorade (sports drink electrolyte replacement) over the last 24 hours so I'm adequitely hydrated in anticipation of donating and really had to pee! So that was my initial experience and the place I'm going to looks clean and safe and as you can see, it's a thorough screening process, not just anyone off the street can donate plasma. Despite all lengthy screening process and challenges which have arose, if I'm approved, I'd like to still donate.

Update 2/9:
It's been a week and so I followed up with the plasma center via a phone call to see if they had received the form back from my physician's office and if my physician had given the ok for me to donate and apparently he had. Now I just have to wait until I've been on my medicine for a month before I can make the actual appointment to donate.

Update 3/10:
I had an actual donation appointment today, but because I hadn't ate an actual meal beforehand (meal replacement shakes don't count I guess) and they prefer you do as to minimize side effects, they deferred me until tomarrow, but went ahead and took a test tube of blood to test for any blood-borne pathogens (such as HIV and viral hepatitis) which might make my blood and blood products unsafe to use, a normal part of the screening process. Normally the screening process, the physical, medical questionare, and test tube of blood are all done in one appointment, but because I had to have a physician's ok, it was a bit more drawn out.

Update 3/11:
Yea, I was able to donate today! I made sure to eat a good breakfast this time before my appointment. I got there a little early and got logged in at the front desk and because I was a first time donor, I got a bag of gold-fish crackers and a bottle of water to drink. Once I finished my snack, I filled out an automated medical history questionare on a self-service computer. I then was called to chair along a large round counter where a phlebotomist (or lab tech) weighed me (to determine how much plasma can be donated), took my blood pressure and temperature, and took a finger-prick of blood to check the iron and protein levels in my blood. Everything was good, so next I proceeded to a large room where the actual plasma donation would take place, and took a seat in a recliner next to a plasmapheresis machine. Donating plasma is similar in many ways to whole blood donation. First a blood pressure cuff is put around my arm and then the tech hooked up the disposable tubing. Then the tech will felt for a vein in the bend of my arm and marked it, my skin was cleaned well with betadine, and a needle is inserted into the vein. I know having a needle inserted interveinously isn't fun, but honestly I think the finger prick hurt more than having the needle inserted. The machine was then set for the amount of plasma to be collected and the process begain. In the first cycle, blood is drawn through the needle and into tubing, up into a spinning tube which seperates the plasma from the rest of the blood products, the blood products then run out of the tube, down a line where it mixes with an anticoagulant (to keep it flowing) and collects in a small resevoir. Once a pint of blood has been collected in the resevoir, the machine stops and enters the next cycle, in which the blood and is then pumped back into the body. The anticoagulant used (citric acid) gave me an awful metallic taste in my mouth and made my lips tingle at first. Once the resevoir is empty again, the first cycle begins again and this continues until 520 to 820 ml of plasma is collected. Once the process is complete, the machine automatically switched off, with the machine chirrpring and moniter screen showing the process is complete. Then the phlebotomist then changed the settings so that an infusion of normal saline drip was given to help rehydrate me and prevent dizziness; however at normal room temperature (15 to 20 degrees below normal body temperature), the saline feels cold and made me shiver, I think next time I'll bring a blanket! The tape holding the tubing in place on my arm was removed (and I got free hair removal on my arm :p) and the needle was removed and a piece of colorful elastic bandage was wrapped around my arm. I got a purple one, only my favorite color. I felt well with no side effects and so was released. I then checked out on the finger scanner, receiving $20 credited a a debit card I received, a worthy incentive I might add. Overall, the process wasn't that bad nor that big of a deal and I look forward to donating again in the near future.

Also, the following is a pretty thorough, honest, and informative article about plasma donation:
Pimping For Plasma - The Truth Behind Plasma “Donations”

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