I have waxed rhapsodic about the joys of apheresis–the process by which blood is taken out and useful bits (plasma, platelets, red cells) removed, and then what remains is returned to you. As done by the Blood Center of The Pacific downtown in San Francisco, it’s nearly a spa-experience. Heated blankets, solicitous attendents, movies and an internet connection. People coming by to thank you for being a good person. I mean, really. I’ve always really liked doing apheresis: it’s an excuse to lie around in the middle of the day watching a movie or snoozing, while people come around to make sure that you’re comfy. And there’s the Virtue factor, which is not inconsiderable.
But the last time I went in they wouldn’t take my blood. Or rather, I was turned down for apheresis (they cheerfully took a pint of the whole red stuff). And it’s not a one-time thing. I can give platelets and packed red cells, but no plasma any more. And that goes for a huge percentage of potential donors. Between the last time I did apheresis and my next scheduled appointment, the rules changed. Apparently they have discovered that a small number of plasma recipients react violently–potentially fatally–to an antibody present in the blood of any woman who has ever been pregnant. Doesn’t matter if you’ve had a child or were only pregnant for a week: you have the antibody, and you can’t donate plasma. And if you don’t have a sufficient iron count they won’t take packed red cells (which requires a much higher iron count than just donating a pint of red), and if they aren’t taking at least two blood constituents they don’t do apheresis.
Of course, the need for plasma, platelets, and packed red cells, doesn’t diminish just because the number of donors does. And summer is a particularly difficult time for blood supply. So: if you’ve never been pregnant–if you’re a guy, and therefore out of that part of the reproductive race, or if you are a woman who’s never been pregnant even for a day–consider doing apheresis. It’s one of the easiest ways to stockpile good karma, and they treat you like royalty. Go do it for me (and watch all the cool little wheels and rheostats and stuff. It’s nifty tech).