Nurses and needles and veins, oh my! Prepping before donating blood or plasma.

I think all plasma donation sites should have this on the home page: if you have veins that like to hide or jump at the elbow and you have a hard time giving blood, don’t bother showing up to donate plasma!!!

That would’ve saved some time and made my day better. I tried to go in and donate this morning, but my ignorance knows few bounds. I was totally unprepared, even though I’d read the website about how to prepare. I just didn’t get it as well as I’d hoped.

If you already eat healthy and exercise, it’s probably not much of a problem. But when you’re not the healthiest eating or physically moving schmuck (like me), it takes some real thought about what needs to be done.

I’m sure this lady would’ve liked more of a heads up about her veins, and her blog post was something else (with a little fear and humor). Thankfully it didn’t get this far with me (and I had nicer people to deal with).

But they didn’t say that bit about hard-to-find veins. At least they took a look before the lengthy orientation process–that saved a lot of time.

My veins are jumpy and they hide. I admit I’m on the chubby side, and I’m sure that means my arms, too, but I was only able to successfully donate blood once–my first time, in high school.

When the cancer center would come for blood donations to my college campus, I’d donate if I had time (or try to). Unfortunately, it didn’t work. I’d do the paperwork, they’d ask questions. They’d take blood to make sure I had enough iron in my finger (sometimes I didn’t and I was turned away, because I didn’t know they were going to be there, and didn’t prep first).

Then began the waiting game, and I’d lay down when called and pump my arm and everything. My forearm veins you can see great, but as soon as it gets near the elbow, they run and hide. Sometimes they’re found but jump out of the way.

I remember getting irritated the last couple of times and asked them to go ahead and take blood further down (I know they could, and did sometimes at the hospital), that they could take it from the forearm of my non-dominant hand.

I knew it’d be a more painful location, but I figured anything to stop the poking and prodding was a win in my book.

But they never did.

Just imagine the cursing stream in my head when it snaps…it’ll be accurate. (shudder)

Instead they’d break a couple of tourniquets on my arm, turn the area blue, purple and yellow for a week, and give me a t-shirt for my time.

That was a waste. I wish they’d get you to pump your arm and make sure they could feel or see the vein first. That would save a ton of time and resources.

Well, I’ll give props to the plasma place for that one. But I didn’t realize how bad off my veins are that they can’t be found. Plasma donation requires a thicker gauge needle, and they need to hit the vein just right.

And BOTH arms need to have usable veins (at least at the place I went to), in case one’s not so good, then they can go to the other. They don’t want to screw them up, and they want the arms to heal up.

You can easily find pictures of bad injuries thanks to technicians who either didn’t care or didn’t have that policy in place…don’t eat first, though.

Well, most sites have good info on basic prep for blood or plasma donation. If you’re going to donate, read up on specifics of each and how to best prepare. Hell, read multiple sites (my mistake) and be sure to look specifically for tips regarding what you’re donating. It’s not the same process and will require different approaches, whether you’re going for basic blood donation or plasma donation.

For instance, they recommend you avoid dairy in plasma donation because the anticoagulants they have to use might not work as well in combining with the proteins in milk or dairy. Soymilk is also iffy, so I’d be checking. One nurse told me that almond or coconut milk seem to be okay, though, so that’s an option if you like those.

I don’t. Maybe I should scrap soymilk from my diet, too. I barely use it except for occasional cooking and my cereal…when I remember I have some.

But what about those tricky veins? What can we do if they jump around and love to hide?

Exercise, specifically strength training, can help make veins more prominent by working out the muscles in the area. The muscles help the veins move up for easier access.

Of course, hydration is key as well.

Be well rested and in good health. If you’re drained or head-achy, no appetite, DON’T SHOW UP. Donate another day. (That one’s on every facility page I’ve found).

I talked to a few people who’ve done plasma donation in the past, because I keep seeing AVOID CAFFEINE in the pages everywhere I go (it restricts vein size for many people). I love my coffee, though, and it’s one of the few “food vices” I refuse to give up for good. I can try to give up dairy, and most sugar, but not my coffee or tea.

Well, a few donors have said if you’re really good and hydrated, then just maybe make sure to avoid caffeine at least 12 hours before going in. That’s not so hard for me. I’m better off when I switch to herbal tea after noon, anyway, or plain water.

Good thing I rarely drink sodas.

And then afterward, if I’m prone to caffeine withdrawals (which I am), maybe wait about 2 hours after donation to have just a little caffeine. Don’t chug, just let your body hydrate and rest a bit before stimulating the hell out of it.

Yes, I’ve heard coffee doesn’t actually dehydrate you like they feared, as long as you drink lots of water with it. As well as fat. Too much fat for breakfast will mess with your test.

If your plasma tests “cloudy,” you likely won’t be able to donate.

Basically, be active with some muscles, make yourself see your veins occasionally, watch the alcohol and caffeine, eat right with plenty of lean meats and complex carbs, and you may be on your way to helping others (and earning a little extra money) with plasma donation.

I’ll be consulting with a doc sometime this month to see what all else I can do for myself, and wait a few months before trying again.

I could definitely use the money, but dammit, i want to know if I can donate and help others more.

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