To Donate Plasma or Whole Blood?
For many years I have tried to donate blood, but I was deferred (postponed for one year) for two reasons. The first reason was because I frequently travel to different countries and visited malaria zones. Malaria is a risk for whole blood donation, or what people typically think of as they go in to donate blood.
Another reason I was deferred, was that each winter I would add to my tattoo artwork on my body. This used to be an automatic deferral for one year.
With this blog post, I would like to make clear, as a frequent traveler, you can still donate source plasma. There are some factors which can prevent this, but not just because you spent time in a malaria endemic area.
Source plasma is the straw colored liquid part of the blood in which the blood cells are suspended. The plasma contains protein, clotting factors, minerals and immunoglobulin to help fight infection.
How Source Plasma Donation Can Help
Many rare blood diseases which strike children can be helped with blood transfusions and blood products. Donating blood or blood products saves lives every day! A patient with a severe disease may require up to 30 blood transfusions in one year!
Source plasma donations, which are collected in California from Blood Source, are tested and then sent to a non-profit in Europe for further testing and processing. It is then combined with other plasma donations to make plasma derived medicine for patients. It can take hundreds or thousands of plasma donations to make medicines for more than 80 diseases.
Food and Drug Administration
65% of the world’s plasma is collected in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for the overall safety of the blood supply in our country. Every blood center in the U.S. must meet the standards given by the FDA. Comprehensive donor screenings keep our blood supply safe from infectious diseases.
Emerging diseases that are possibly transmissible by blood include: Babesiosis, Chagas Disease, Chikungunya (please click here to read our personal experience with Chikungunya), Dengue and the most recent virus, Zika.
The Donation Process
The first step in donating whole blood or source plasma, is to find a location near you. Blood Systems has blood centers across the U.S., and is a leading transfusion medicine organization.
The next step is determining if you are eligible to donate whole blood or source plasma. Currently, you can donate whole blood if you have received a tattoo from a professional shop with sterile, single use needles. This is not the case with source plasma donation, for a one year deferral will be given from the date of the last tattoo.
Malaria Risk Travel
To donate whole blood it will be a one year deferral if you spent time in a malaria zone. If you lived in a malaria zone, you may be deferred for three years. Also, to donate source plasma, the nurse will document all of your travels from the past three years and as long as you haven’t contracted malaria, you will be able to donate.
The third step will be to make an appointment and go in to donate. The nurse will check your hemoglobin level with a finger stick to see if your levels are high enough to safely donate. Low iron is a frequent cause of low hemoglobin.
Approximately 7% of people who would like to donate, have too low of levels and need to defer their blood donation.
Iron rich food can help improve hemoglobin levels. A few options are:
-Chicken liver, clams, mollusks, beef and turkey
-Beans and lentils
-Pumpkin or sesame seeds
I would really like to encourage you to donate. Every three minutes someone is diagnosed with blood cancer.
If you have a fear of needles there are plenty of volunteer opportunities within Blood Source; greeters, registration, input data, serve snacks and patient education.
My experience donating plasma has been very rewarding and it only takes an hour out of my day, every few weeks.
For more in-depth information on becoming a donor please click here.