Before walking into a blood or plasma donation facility, people may not consider the procedure and its consequences.
Whether it be to make cash through donating plasma or donating blood to make a positive impact on one’s life, there are different reasons why one would go to these facilities on multiple occasions.
Regardless of why a person chooses to donate blood or plasma, there may be certain health risks the donors and medical professionals drawing the substance work to avoid.
Stephanie Pointer, donor recruitment supervisor for Vitalant, formerly United Blood Services, said the process of donating blood or plasma is safe, as phlebotomists take measures to make sure the donor’s blood is in good standing.
“We have people that come and look at our facilities all the time to make sure we’re meeting all the standards and restrictions that are asked of us,” she said regarding precautions.
The biggest health risk is not having enough blood on the shelf, Pointer said. Before the blood-drawing process starts, the professionals ask a lot of questions, check blood pressure, make sure heart rate is not abnormal and check if cholesterol levels are good to make sure there is no risk to the donor or the receiver.
Donors are told they are going to feel better if they drink a lot of water the day before the donation, and not have alcohol or caffeinated drinks, Pointer said. If donors follow these rules along with eating a low-fat, hearty meal an hour before donating, they should not have issues when donating blood or plasma.
“We do have a fast track on the website where they can answer the questions ahead of time, pull up a barcode when they come in, and then, all we have to do is check their iron levels, blood pressure and so on,” she said regarding preparations. “It speeds up the process.”
Aleese Handley, lab manager at Texas Tech Student Health Services and former employee of Vitalant, said when one donates, phlebotomists open the packets of needle in front of the donor, so there is no way they will ever use the same needles.
In addition to this precaution, donors may be deferred from donating blood or plasma due to getting recent tattoos, traveling to other countries or after donating blood that is tested for hepatitis and HIV, Handley said. The draw tubes along with the donations get sent to a laboratory in Dallas that does testing for all the donations across the country.
Rebecca Ruiz, a senior journalism major from Plainview, said she has been donating through Vitalant for four years.
“My first time I was a little worried, but the employees were really nice and explained the process and asked a lot of questions beforehand,” Ruiz said.
Donating is a great experience and knowing it helps other people fulfills her heart and makes her happy, Ruiz said despite the precautions that need to be taken.
“I’m not sure if they do it anymore, but I once received a letter thanking me for donating blood to them,” Ruiz said. “My blood donation helped a 4-year old with leukemia, and the letter included his story.”