For those of you that are familiar with donations to the good cause of Plasma Protein Therapy, then you know that plasma donation centers Like CSL and Grifolds are the two companies here in the East Valley that you can go to contribute to the massive demand of plasma. In fact, they offer compensation for your time while you donate and each time being more pay than the last, which restarts monthly in order to keep people coming back. They do this because the plasma is used to make medicines for a variety of conditions ranging from shock or hemophilia, all the way to brain cancers and rare autoimmune diseases.
Plasma is the liquid part of the blood, it is 55% the total make up of blood, and it suspends the red cells, transporting them throughout the body. The protein in plasma helps the blood clot, and also contains glucose and other dissolved nutrients. The process of collecting plasma for use is separating the plasma from the red blood cells in a procedure called plasmapheresis. This is where they insert a slightly large IV called venapuncture and take small amounts of blood at a time into a plasmapheresis machine that separates the cells from the plasma and then puts the red blood cells back and collects the plasma. the amount they can get from one person depends on their weight, and ranges from 690 to 880 ML.
The demand of plasma donation is so high because the volume needed to maintain these treatments is pretty hefty. The fact that it takes 130 donations just for one person with a primary immune deficiency to get treatment alone is an outstanding number. More surprising than that are numbers like 900, which is the amount of donations it takes for just one Alpha1 patient; or 1200, that is the amount of plasma donations it takes for a single patient with hemophilia. A few other medicines that are made with plasma are used for burns, infant HIV, surgery, and organ transplants; but a full list of diseases that are treated by Plasma Protein Therapy can be found on http://www.donatingplasma.org.
There is an extensive health and personal history screening for possible donors, and no matter which company you go to they are the same. Plasma donation is regulated by the FDA as well as the IQPP (International Quality Plasma Program), which quality controls the facilities. You will undergo tests such as a light physical, and an exam checking your eyes, ears, throat, knees and ankles. They screen your blood for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as disqualifying disorders. The first time you step into a donation center you can expect to be there for about 3-4 hours for the initial paperwork and tests, plus all of the information and consent forms; but the actual time it takes to get through the procedure itself ranges from 35-90 minutes, depending on the persons overall health.
To do my due diligence on this subject I went ahead and tested out the two facilities in the area to see for myself how it all works, the first I went to was Grifolds. They offered a “New Patient” special which was $50.00 for your first 5 donations if you signed up in May, for returning donors the month starts off at $25.00, and goes up with each visit from there. It did take about 3 hours to go through, but the staff was amazing and made the whole thing very comfortable for me. It gets cold so make sure you bring a sweater or blanket, and of course something to read because you do have to sit for quite awhile. I got my money on a prepaid card as soon as I was finished and it actually felt pretty good to get to do that, they informed me that it is very important to go back for a 2nd donation within 6 weeks because they cannot use your plasma unless they have 2 separate extractions from you. I went back two days later and got my 2nd $50.00. My friend referred me to this in the first place and I later found out that he got a $200.00 bonus for the referral, so that is pretty good incentive as well.
The experience I had with the 2nd company was quite different. CSL Plasma Donation is probably the more popular of the two places to go simply because they pay more for your time and the special for new patients in June was $60.00 for your first donation and $75.00 for your second. The process was the same but the difference for me personally were a few things, like the way the staff treated me felt very much like I was being looked down on, especially when I had to be what they call “deferred” for 1 day because my pulse was too high to go through the procedure for that day. It seemed they felt that I wasted THIER time, but still I went back the next day and completed my first donation. Again, I got my compensation right away via prepaid card and left with the intention of returning for the 2nd donation in two days, even though the service and treatment left a bad taste in my mouth. I could go into detail but I would rather save that for what happened at the second appointment. So there I went two days later and I was pretty excited when I went in because no one was there so I got to go right up to the screening area and get things done quickly without a wait. Then came the problem, the young woman informed me that I needed to go to the medical area when she was done pricking my finger and screening my blood for that day. I should also mention that they look at the inside of your arms and elbows, for any cuts, wounds, bruising and such. She didn’t know why the computer told her I needed to go but assured me that it was never anything bad. So when I went in and sat down this boy that looked like he should still be in high school asked to see my arms again. OK…. I thought, well I do get heat bumps from the sweat where my arms bend but I didn’t have any near the puncture site at all and it had been fine the last time, but he called in a second person to look and he told the boy that he had been right. I was so confused so I asked what the problem was and he took an alcohol swab and wiped my arm, I had powder on my arm and they told me that I was “concealing” marks. Well I was pretty shocked and honestly still confused as to the problem; was it the bumps from sweating? No, it was the fact that I had put powder on my arms. They then told me I was “deferred” PERMANENTLY and I was not welcome there anymore. It was pretty embarrassing walking out of there and had I not been asked to never go back I would not have based on the treatment I got alone! I was made out to be a drug addict trying to hide marks and shamed out of the building. The worst part was knowing that my first donation went to waste at this point because of this.
The last thing I would like to say is that this brings me to the exciting news of a new plasma center choice here in the east valley called Biolife. The Mesa center has just opened and the Tempe location is set to have their grand opening on July 27th. I am optimistic that this new facility will resemble an atmosphere more like Grifolds than that of CSL. While I understand certain policy I do not accept the demeanor of the employee professionals. So to conclude my investigation into the world of plasma donation, I would say that my recommendation would definitely stick to Grifolds, try out the new BioLife in Mesa, or wait until the Tempe location opens! But be careful not to frequent different companies too often, it is required to not switch facilities within two weeks, another strict policy to make sure you know before you go! I will definitely be checking out the new company before making my decision on which company I want to regularly donate to, since finding out what good it does I want to give what I can, when I can, and I hope I’ve inspired a few others to check it out themselves, if not for the charity, do it for the extra cash!