Plasma Donation for the High Maintenance

Art by Navita Wijeratne

When plasma or blood donation gets brought up, there’s usually an echo of “oh, I need to get around to that.” Or, a round of reasons for not being able, or allowed to donate. I was this person too once. Then, during one of those rare times when I finally get around to everything, I simply booked my first appointment. And after three donations, I am no longer part of this echo. 


On the other hand (arm?), the first time I went might not fully count. I was freaking out and my arm was stinging, so the donation ended early. I had read every page of the website, but there was still a lot I was unsure about. To help others avoid my fate, I present an insider guide, ordered by how unprepared I was for each thing.

Here are: My Top Tips for Being a High Maintenance Person, and Having the Best Possible Experience, at The Plasma Donor Centre.

  1. The website does not tell you that you have to squeeze your hand. If you managed to donate, and squeezing your arm was obvious to you or not difficult: good for you. But like, they put a needle in my arm, told me not to move my arm and then told me I have to move my hand to squeeze it? I got used to it by my second attempt, and the staff there were incredibly patient with me. I am not joking, I probably asked a million times if I was squeezing right. They gave fair warning when I needed to squeeze harder, and anticipation wasn’t a major problem. So it turned out I was squeezing just fine. And I was doing okay. And then – I had done it!


  1. Another way to reduce chances of freaking out, something I didn’t know was an option until I asked, is this: if you don’t want to look at the machine as it churns your blood donation – you can just ask to turn the machine around. The bloody-spinny-machine bothered me in my first attempt, but with it turned away, the second time got a lot easier.


  1. I didn’t want to know my weight and I was not expecting to see the scale you are expected to put yourself on. In hindsight, it is obvious that they need to know your weight among other information like blood pressure. I asked the front desk if there was a way for them to weigh me, so that I didn’t have to put it in myself. It didn’t seem like they had been asked before, but they were down to help, and it helped a lot! And now that at least one person has asked before, you know you won’t be the first.

  2. Speaking of the questionnaire, it can seem very dramatic. Which is fair, because while a cold isn’t a big deal to you, it could be a big deal to the person receiving your plasma. It is weird the first time, having to tell them about the surgery you had when you were five. And then trying to remember if you had possibly been to the UK in 1997 (despite not being alive at the time). It is also weird having to admit to (gasp!) having one small almost healed cut on your hand, or having taken Paracetamol the day before (oh, the horror!). In the interview room however, the interviewers have common sense and there really are no issues with things like that. They have all been super calming no matter what I have thrown at them. My nervousness about the questionnaire was definitely more my own self than the actual medical professionals.

  3. Something I wish I had thought about is coming up with a reason for being bandaged up. For me, it gets boring saying the same thing every time, even if I’m only wearing the bandage for four hours. My goal for next time during the donation is, instead of watching Netflix, to plan elaborate stories to tell. My only idea at the moment is that I was attacked by a Rodent Of Unusual Size. Or, that someone famous touched my arm and I want to preserve it forever. Speaking of aftercare, not being able to lift heavy things or exercise for 12 hours can be a blessing sometimes. 


During the donation, they bring you chocolate milk, and afterwards you can have a sausage roll, TimTam and a bag of chips. That’s everything I had last time. They also have vegetarian pastries, muffins, crackers, Freddo Frogs, or even fruit… If that’s your thing (no judgement). If you are eligible, you have time, and you aren’t too scared of needles: 10/10 would recommend. Especially for a cost-effective lunch. 


So go forth, and become the hottest, most high maintenance person at the plasma donation centre. Or second most, if I’m donating at the same time.

We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.