I want to donate blood. Or plasma. But I have questions...
January 3, 2016 12:27 PM   Subscribe

i live in China and I am AB negative, a bloodtype that is rare here. A while back I required hospitalization and the staff implored me to come back and donate blood once I recovered. My understanding is that it's actually my plasma that is desirable. Is this true? And how much should I, a 6"2 male, agree to give? Is there anything else to watch out for?
posted by krautland to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
AB is a universal donor for plasma, so that makes sense.
posted by mkultra at 1:44 PM on January 3, 2016

US rules (I can't speak about China's) are a pint of whole blood once a minimum of every 56 days; plasma can be given once every 15 days. Your height and gender make no difference, just a minimum weight of I think it's 115 pounds.

You can give the plasma much more often because they pump the rest of the blood products back into you, so you aren't losing as much fluid as with whole blood. The other main difference --- besides how often you can donate, 15 vs. 56 days --- is how much time the actual donation process takes. A pint of whole blood can be donated pretty fast; including the paperwork you could be out in half an hour. Plasma donations take a lot longer, because of the time to separate out the plasma & return the rest to you; I find it usually takes about three hours start to finish.

So: whole blood is faster per actual donation but slower between donations; plasma is faster between donations and slower for the actual donation itself.
posted by easily confused at 1:46 PM on January 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

During the 1990s, a huge number of blood donors in China were infected with HIV. I imagine that modern practices and urban donation should be a bit safer?
posted by dcjd at 1:48 PM on January 3, 2016

During the 1990s, a huge number of blood donors in China were infected with HIV. I imagine that modern practices and urban donation should be a bit safer?

In reputable hospitals in Shanghai, especially those catering to foreigners (Huashan, etc), the nurse will usually make a show of opening a brand new sterile needle in front of the patient.
posted by bradf at 2:22 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Donating blood products is easy and a wonderful thing to do. As long as everything is sterile (and you can insure that it is) there's no downside.

For sure, go back and donate! I enjoy the cookies and juice!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:31 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

My understanding is that it's actually my plasma that is desirable. Is this true?

I'm AB+, not quite as rare but still rare. Enough so that when I grew up in a small town they were sometimes calling my mom late at night (she has it also) when there was someone in a car accident or something who needed it. I wound up lucking into a cool situation when I lived in Seattle where I would donate blood every few weeks (they took less than the usual pint donation so we could do it more often) and got paid for it because they used it in a study for cancer research. And I am smaller than you. So, yes, you can give plasma basically every two weeks (as easily confused says) though it does take a while. You can bring an ipad or something and watch a movie. If you're not needle averse or hospital-averse, it's a good thing to do. Blood donating is fast, sometimes really fast, and so if your time is at a premium you could do that instead.
posted by jessamyn at 2:36 PM on January 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just to be persnickety. I am going to correct a detail above. The reason you have to wait 6 weeks between whole blood donations is that it takes your bone marrow almost that long to regenerate the red cells that you have donated. Red cells live for several weeks and take several weeks to recover. Plasma, and the antibodies and immunoglobulins in them. Regenerate much more quickly. It has naught to do with the time spent in donation. although the net wait times are as given.
posted by SLC Mom at 3:05 PM on January 3, 2016

I am this also and apparently it's the rarest in the world at <1% but here in Canada when I found out during routine pregnancy related tests no one was beating down my door asking me to donate. Also I was reading that scientists have developed a way to change blood between types so if that gets commercialized then we will be even less special ha ha. I plan to follow up with the Canadian blood bank just in case but that's the story here so far.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:36 PM on January 3, 2016

I used to work at a blood bank in the US. Here are a couple things that might help you understand different types of donations:

Your blood is made up of different components. Namely: red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma.

When you donate blood, if you just give a "regular" donation, where they stick a needle in you and it goes directly into the blood bag, it's called a "whole blood" donation. In the laboratory they usually separate out the components and different recipients get each part of your blood, because the different components help different types of patients.

Red blood cells take about 6 weeks to regenerate (most US blood banks make you wait 8 weeks between donations). Platelets and plasma regenerate more quickly.

There is a type of donation procedure called apheresis. The machine draws a small amount of whole blood, then filters the components, and gives you some components back (along with fluids). So if you're doing a plasma apheresis donation, over about an hour the machine will collect your plasma donation but give back your red cells, white cells, and platelets. That way you can donate plasma more often (in the US they have you wait about a month), and you can donate a larger volume in each sitting than in a whole blood donation.

AB- blood is fairly uncommon. Due to the way that cross-matching works, most people can receive AB- plasma, so it's very valuable to the blood banks.

As someone who used to work in blood bank recruiting, I'd definitely encourage you to give. I am not sure what the standards are in China but I wouldn't do it more than once a month. Switch arms each time. And chew on some Tums during the donation - sometimes the citrates in the fluids they give back can make your lips tingle, and the calcium combats that.
posted by radioamy at 6:11 PM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

I had never heard of this Chinese blood scandal before. As far as I can tell, the companies doing the plasmapheresis didn't use clean equipment, and they tried to save money by pooling several donors' blood together in the machine before returning it, thereby spreading diseases including HIV.

I think if you live in a modern city and go to a modern hospital you shouldn't have anything to worry about.

I found several articles about how low the blood supply is in China, due to the past scandals and a general cultural aversion to donating. Patients resort to getting blood on the black market! If you're a willing and able donor, they could really use it.
posted by radioamy at 8:42 PM on January 3, 2016

Response by poster: I am aware of the HIV scandal but that's far away in a much less developed place. Having seen those types of hospitals I am not too surprised. Things have changed though.

bradf nailed where I am going - Huashan is my place. They helped me, hence I am going back there.

radioamy : how much in ml do you think is advisable to give in one session?
posted by krautland at 8:51 PM on January 3, 2016

My personal experience has been that plasma can be donated in the amount of about one liter twice per week (I'm surprised to hear others describing longer wait times, but I assume procedural differences account for this.) The secret to successful plasma donation is excellent hydration. It can mean the difference between twenty-five minutes or several hours with a largish needle in one's arm. Years later, I still have an odd, pale scar on the inside of each elbow as I used to do this quite often.
posted by dissolvedgirl22 at 12:05 PM on January 4, 2016

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