Looking at life... from an oblique angle / and I sometimes Twitter (normally only when riled up): @brindafella

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I'm "giving blood" today.

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service makes the point that, on its figures, only about 2.35% of Australians donate blood at any time -- around 3% over their lifetime, given that some have to drop out for various reasons. Yet, around 50% of the population will need blood products at some point in their life.

Australian blood donors are not paid. Instead, we are bribed. The bribes consist of a cup of tea/coffee or a milkshake and biscuits AFTER the donation, and for those needing tio bulk up their liquids there are also drinks before the donation.

I think that the most recent TV ad is great! We need another like it, though, for plasma donations.

In my case, I am a plasma donor. (The process is called "apheresis" or 'plasmapheresis'.) This takes longer than 'straight' blood donation, as a machine or process is involved in separating the plasma (a yellow liquid) from the red cells. The red cells are returned from the machine through the tube and needle. In my case, around 2.4 litres of whole blood is processed for each 650ml plasma donation. (This is what I see on the machine's control panel.)

Being a plasma donor means that I can donate every two weeks, or four weeks after a whole-blood donation. I try to make appointments every three weeks, but work and other commitments often make this longer. Thankfully, the Red Cross's diary is also flexible.

Here are the BIG questions.

(1) "So, does it hurt?" Answer: No, but there is a momentary sting when the needle goes into the inside of your elbow.

(2) "Does it mean you get a scar?" Answer: Yes, I have a row of 'track' scars on each inner-elbow, and I'm proud of them! I show them off if people are really interested; and, I have the blood donor card next to my driver's license in my wallet, to explain them, if I'm ever going to be in a debilitating accident.

(3) "Does it take long?" Answer: A whole-blood donation can take as little as 10 minutes in the chair, 40 minutes from beginning to fill out the required form until walking out; typically, though, it's an hour. Plasma donation takes ~30 minutes longer, because the machine has to process and return your red cells.

(4) "How do you know plasma donation is safe? Couldn't you get someone else's blood back?" Answer: Any blood donation is going to have a very small risk. But, life is not risk-free, even sitting in an office. Plasma machines in Canberra have clear tubes and the donor sees that they are pristine and clean before use, and a 'closed-loop' so there is no contamination. What you see/give is what you get... back.

(5) "Won't I fee funny afterwards?" Answer: Only normally-fit people can give blood. People are screened as being okay to give blood, and excluded if they fit into certain categories (e.g. pregnant women, certain minimim and maximum weight reqiirements, etc.) There is a chance that you'll feel faint, but that's why donors are 'required' to sit around for a few minutes and have a beverage of choice. That's when people may feel 'off' and can be assisted by the Red Cross staff on the spot.

(6) "Can't the blood I give be contaminated with other people's blood and therefore 'wasted'?" Answer: I trust the blood processing labs to get that right. They test the blood anyway, even despite the answers to screening questions that people have to go through before the donation. As for 'contamination', I understand that most blood -- and certainly almost all plasma -- is 'fractioned' (its component parts are separated) and mixed before being prepared for patients. Big deal! And, yes, it IS a big deal to the people who need the blood to live.

So, that's my story. What's yours?


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